Journalist Desiree Savage spoke to Illawarra locals about illness, death and dying.

Read the original story 'Palliative care stories shared by Illawarra locals' by Desiree Savage in the Queanbeyan Age 30 June 2017.

One of the people she spoke with was Ally Barnaba, Primary Health Nurse.

Over the past 30 years Australian palliative medicine has evolved to become a massive network of helping hands to support people on their final journey.

Health professionals find the biggest misconception around needing palliative care is it means you’re stepping into a grave.

Being a palliative care nurse is the best job Ally Barnaba has ever had. The 30-year-old has been in the role just nine months but the passion for her job clearly shows.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt so fulfilled as a nurse than I have been with palliative care,” she said.

“It’s like every day you go home and you honestly can say ‘I’ve changed someone’s life’. It’s such a beautiful thing to be so proud of what you do.”

Ally is one of the youngest in the Wollongong team but said it’s not all about sadness, and is full of great moments with extraordinary people.

“To say that you love your job [people] think it’s quite a morbid discussion and people aren’t willing to talk about death,” she said.

Ally is one of the community nurses who are like the eyes and ears for the specialists, there for patients when they need or just to check they’re doing ok.

The majority of her patients are elderly but she also meets children, young mums and fathers along with their families and carers.

“No matter what age they are these people are so loved and people don’t want them to go, so it’s difficult,” she said.

One of the obstacles for her is remembering these people can’t be spared from death but that feeling is quickly overtaken by pride in knowing she can ensure they have the best quality of life for their time left.

“In western society we don’t deal with death too well, I think it is a taboo subject and people don’t really like to talk about it,” Ally said.

“We don’t look at death and celebrate it like other cultures do.”

While she says other nurses strive to work in areas like intensive care, for Ally working with people on their final life journey was something she’d always wanted to do and feels “blessed” to be where she is.

In western society we don’t deal with death too well, I think it is a taboo subject and people don’t really like to talk about it. – Ally Barnaba

Recently she was shopping and bumped into a mother whose late son she had given support to.

“She gave us the biggest cuddle, she was crying and said ‘you guys just helped us through that period so much’ and she was so grateful for the service and grateful for us,” Ally said.

“For her to say her son loved us coming in and we were like a ’ray of sunshine’ to someone that is looking down the barrel of dying, that in itself just makes this job so worth it.”

Read the original story by Desiree Savage in the Queanbeyan Age 30 June 2017.

Pic: Ally Barnaba (pic credit Sylvia Liber)