Having an Aboriginal Liaison Officer by her side at Sunshine Hospital was crucial for Claudette Lovett, a proud Gunditjmara woman, when she lost her brother.

You too can help support the needs of patients at Western Health, by donating to the Greatest Need Project.

THE date November 16, 2017, is one that Claudette Lovett would prefer to forget.

Not only was her brother lying unconscious in intensive care at Sunshine Hospital, she was overcome by chronic pain and whisked to the Emergency Department.

And bad news came in threes.

About 300km away, her brother’s daughter, 11, was also attacked by the family dog, ferried from Hamilton Base Hospital to the Royal Children’s in Melbourne.

“It’s been a very difficult and challenging time,” says Claudette, from NSW.

“Everything that could happen that day did happen.

“I had been experiencing pain in my feet on and off for four weeks, and it got to the point where I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other without excruciating pain. They had to wheel me down to Emergency.”

Fortunately, her niece escaped with superficial scratches.

But sadly, her brother died four days later, his weakened, enlarged heart failing to recover after the massive cardiac arrest that put him in the ICU.

Without the assistance and understanding of the Aboriginal Health Unit at Western Health, the family’s trauma would have been compounded.

Claudette hails from the Gunditjmara community, and says the cultural sensitivities and understanding provided by Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers including Emma Wendt were invaluable.

“So much of what they did was amazing. They made sure we were comfortable, that we had access to everything we needed, and gave extra support to the family,” says Claudette, a social worker.

“When it became clear he was not coming out of hospital, they helped us with a culturally appropriate funeral service and putting us in touch with the Aboriginal Advancement League.”

She says the liaison officers were a big help in family meetings with medical staff, breaking down complex terms and offering a “second ear” to listen and comprehend during a stressful and emotional time.

A private room for grieving was provided before and after his life support was turned off, she says.

“That was very important for us,” she says.

“We gathered around his bedside and sung him away to goodbye.”

Claudette, the family matriarch, says her own grief was suspended as she dealt with funeral arrangements and her own health issues.

Now, the healing begins.

The Greatest Need Project is an online story-sharing website with two major goals – to help patients facing significant hardship and disadvantage, and to facilitate research, at Western Health.

As a patient, Claudette Lovett is sharing her story in bid to help those at Western Health who need it most.

By making a donation on Claudette’s behalf – and sharing her story on social media – you are making a difference too. Thank you.

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