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Debunking the myths about palliative care



Date Published: {J}

By Bernie Ní Fhlatharta

Many still believe that palliative care is consumed with the dying phase of a person’s illness, when in fact those working in that speciality try to do everything in their power to improve a patient’s quality of life.

This and other myths about palliative care will be dispelled at a seminar which is open to the public this Saturday in the city.

Today, a conference entitled Cuisle Beatha, which translates as the pulse of life, is being held in the Radisson Blu Hotel for professionals involved in palliative care. And tomorrow, it opens up to the public, anyone who has an interest in palliative care.

Dr Dympna Waldron, who heads up the Cuisle Beatha Palliative Care team for the West, which incorporates Galway and Mayo, explains that many members of the public are still afraid of what palliative care entails.

First of all, she says, some people automatically resist it because they believe that it is about helping someone to die.

“That is not the case at all. What palliative care does for a patient with a terminal illness is improve the quality of that life. We help with pain management – morphine is a safe drug and helps to control pain.

“There are such good advances in science now that people are living longer with serious illnesses and palliative care is about improving each person’s physical reality,” she says.

The Cuisle Beatha team, based in University Hospital Galway but with a multidisciplinary team which works with the Galway and Mayo Hospices, is fully funded by drugs company sponsorship but is under the auspices of the HSE. The team also reaches out to Roscommon .

Palliative care has changed the way people approach terminal illness and there has been a lot of research carried out in this area in the Western world in recent years, she explains.

“We deal with each patient individually. When a person is in pain, they are unable to deal with relationships, which is an important part of everyone’s life. This is why it is so important to manage pain and that is different for everybody.

“We don’t describe these illnesses as terminal but call them life-limiting illnesses, which is what they are.”

Dr Waldron and her team believe in giving a patient dignity and coping skills to face all aspects of their life-limiting illness.

With radiotherapy advances, patients certainly are living longer and Dr Waldron likes to believe that palliative care is all about empowering the patients, who often feel they have lost their independence because of their dependancy on medical treatment.

“I have always believed that a patient should be empowered so that they are in control of their own pain management. Our biggest philosophy is to give patients control,” she adds.

Individuals have different pain levels so need different doses of morphine, all of which is discussed with the patient.

The team also has a huge educational role and it is this part which will be in play at tomorrow’s public seminar.

There are 50 patients currently receiving palliative care in Galway, many of them patients who come from other hospitals, particularly Sligo, since some of their cancer care services were shut last year.

Dr Waldron said that Ireland was a very good role model of palliative care, which was first been started in this country by the Sisters of Charity nuns in Harrolds Cross, Dublin.

The format of the seminar involves presentations, discussions and also a Q&A session. There will also be information stands by service care providers, charities and care associations.

There is no charge for the public seminar, which Dr Waldron hopes will dispel the myths surrounding the relatively new speciality and educate people on what exactly it’s about and maybe, more importantly, what it is not about.


Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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