24 May, 2021
When Colin Bartrom’s pain became too much for him to bear he reluctantly agreed to a short stay at our Inpatient Unit. He’s now home again and coping beautifully, with the loving support of his family.
It’s not every day you meet the love of your life on your front doorstep. But that’s how Colin Bartrom and wife Raewyn met, when Colin turned up at Raewyn’s house to attend a philosophy group run by her dad in 1968.
It wasn’t love at first sight Colin will tell you with a twinkle in his eye. But over time their friendship grew. “And then, well, I realised I’d fallen in love with her,” he says. Raewyn adds, “All I ever wanted was to get married and have children, and I used to agitate and say, ‘Where am I ever going to meet anybody?’. My father always said, ‘Don’t panic, someone will turn up’.”
Five decades on the couple has built a life that would be the envy of many. The parents of four and grandparents of 12, who are expecting their first great grandchild, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in April. They split their time between the Coromandel, where they love to be by the sea, and their son’s Waitoki property, where they live in a converted barn.
And they spend their days reading to their grandkids, playing cards with them and “getting down to the real nitty gritty”, discussing the meaning of life.
This time is precious, and now even more so because Colin has prostate cancer and is nearing the end of his life. Diagnosed 10 years ago, he has exhausted all treatment options and was referred to Harbour Hospice for palliative care in January.
Managing his pain has become the couple’s priority, with Colin unable to even lift himself out of his chair on a bad day. Pain levels for patients receiving palliative care can be overwhelming and distressing and the specialist care that hospice provides can make a huge difference to their everyday comfort and sense of wellbeing. During level three lockdown in Auckland the pain became so unbearable he was admitted to our Inpatient Unit for a three-night stay.
Raewyn recalls, “It was terrible, he was exhausted, and I felt such a big responsibility. I wasn’t sure whether it was okay to give him another one of these or another one of those. I rang hospice and they were so reassuring.”
Colin had initially refused to stay at the hospice Inpatient Unit (IPU) where the hospice medical team could get a true gauge of his pain levels.
“I thought that if I went in, I’d never come out,” he explains. “But a nurse and doctor came to see me, and they were so honest with me, I trusted them. They said, ‘We can help you at home, but we will be able to get a much clearer picture of what you need if you come in for a short stay.’”
“The nurse & doctor were so honest with me, I trusted them.”
When Colin left the IPU three days later he was comfortable and pain-free. “I still feel exhausted because my body is winding down,” he says. “But I’m not chasing the pain any more. Now it’s the other way round, which is the way it should be.”
His medication needs will continue to evolve and soon he may need to use a syringe driver, which is a small battery-run infusion pump that administers medication at a constant rate. Syringe drivers are arguably more effective than any other form of pain relieving devices because their slow-release action prevents patients from experiencing dips and troughs in their pain levels.
Raewyn & Colin with granddaughter Micaela
Harbour Hospice is in need of more syringe drivers to continue helping patients like Colin, and a donation from you could make all the difference in supporting us to do that.
“I’m one of those guys who’s done anything and everything,” Colin concludes. “I’d crawl under a car if it needed fixing or get up on a roof. I built a pool for our kids. So, to no longer be able to do anything feels like the final test.”
“But death is as natural as birth, and this is my path now. I’ve accepted that. I remember having four little kids and I said to Raewyn’s mum one day, ‘Here I am. I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m a householder. What’s the best thing I can do to teach these kids to be decent people?’ And she said, ‘Just be a good example’. That was good advice. So that’s what Raewyn and I based our whole experience of bringing kids up on.”
With the continued support of generous donors like you, Harbour Hospice can help patients like Colin find comfort when they need it most.
To make a gift, please click on the community you wish to support.