17 May, 2021
Interview with Julie Reid, Harbour Hospice Volunteer Services Coordinator
Match-maker is not a term you’d associate with hospice but it’s exactly what Julie Reid does. She matches patients with volunteers that they’ll enjoy spending time with and facilitates activities that give joy.
“When I meet with volunteers who want to work with our patients, I get as much information about them as I can,” she explains.
“And then that just sits with me. When a patient needs a driver or someone to keep them company, I match them with someone who has similar interests or life experiences.
“I recently found someone who was happy to feed a patient’s turtles for him. The feeding of the turtles was quite an involved process, so I really needed someone who liked turtles.
“Another of our patients loves cardmaking, and she and her volunteer go to Spotlight together so they can spend afternoons making cards.”
These pairings give patients meaningful social interactions that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
“One of the biggest issues for patients is loneliness,” Julie explains. “They’re not only isolated because they can’t get out, but because their families might all be working, or they haven’t got family or they might be estranged. And then they’ve got this diagnosis on top of this.
“In the case of our cardmaking patient, her family is overseas and the relationship she has with her volunteer carer has changed her life.”
Julie always assigns a patient two community visitors, so there is always someone there if a plan falls through. She also puts that patient’s community visitors in touch with one another “so they have someone to talk to, too”.
One of her biggest undertakings to date has been organising a patient’s wedding in a timeframe of just two weeks.
“I heard through the grapevine that Shaylee wanted to get married so I went and saw her then I got to work. I have a lot of contacts.”
Starting with the dress, Julie knew that the Ellerslie Hospice Shop had a good collection of wedding gowns so she selected half a dozen in Shaylee’s size and presented them to her.
Once the dress was sorted Julie turned her attention to the rings, venue, cars, cake, flowers, photography and catering. Shaylee’s ring was sourced from the Milford Hospice Shop but So’o’s hands were so big she couldn’t find a ring to fit. With the help of her contacts she approached Michael Hill Jewellers who donated a ring for So’o.
The bride-to-be wanted to get married by the sea so Julie found the perfect spot at JF Kennedy Memorial Park in Castor Bay, and Julie also ensured Shaylee was transported to her dream wedding in her favourite car, a Mustang.
The husband of Harbour Hospice’s Kaiāwhina, Ngahiwi Walker, officiated the service; Julie’s manager's niece made the cake. Julie and her army of girlfriends took care of the catering.
Shaylee loved her special day, which took place six days before New Zealand moved into Level Four lockdown, on March 20, 2020. “You can see it in the photos, can’t you,” Julie says with a smile.
Shaylee died 11 months after her dream wedding, in February 2021.
“I think it’s important to tell these stories,” Julie concludes, “because people don’t realise that this kind of thing happens at hospice. In the case of Shaylee’s wedding, that involved a whole community of people who wanted to help.”
The former nurse, Meals on Wheels volunteer and children’s secondhand goods store owner says, “I’ve done this sort of work for more than 20 years, and I do it not for the accolades but because I like to make a difference to people’s lives. This is my thing.”
With Julie’s help Shaylee got to have her dream wedding.