Christmas is a time for giving and this year the Mackay HHS Oral Health team had a reason to be thankful and donate a special bell to the Oncology Unit.
In a moving entry for the annual Christmas decorating competition, dental staff turned their waiting room pink in a tribute to women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Director Dr Ronel Bornman said the team struggled to find their Christmas spirit last year after business manager Barb Perry was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Barb has had a year having treatment and recovering, and we are so pleased to have back with us for Christmas,” Dr Bornman said.
“This year we decided we wanted to do something to give back to the hospital and make Christmas about more than the decorations.
“Cancer touches all of us. This year I lost my father and brother and many of us here have lost people to cancer, and there are other survivors in dental too,” she said.
The team won the Chief Executive’s Award in the decorating competition and explained how other areas displayed the health service’s values of collaboration, trust, respect and teamwork.
In 2013 when the clinic was redeveloped the team lobbied to have a road built beside dental so they could easily drop off and pick up equipment and supplies.
Three-phase power was also put on to support a dental caravan used at the time.
“In 2014 BreastScreen called to ask if they could park their mobile screening bus beside dental because we had three-phase power.
“We thought brilliant, and since then the bus has visited every year and all our eligible ladies in dental have their mammogram.
“In October 2017 Barb unfortunately got some bad news after her breast screen, although it was also good news because her cancer was detected early.
“The collaboration and teamwork kicked in – Barb was seen by the surgeons, visited radiology, pathology, the McGrath Foundation nurses and ended up with a lovely team from oncology.
“Barb had to trust all the doctors and nurses giving her advice, and they respected her opinions and feelings.
“So when she finished treatment I asked did she get to ring the bell? Barb said no, she had read about it but unfortunately our oncology department does not have a bell. It was very obvious to us we should donate a bell to the oncology department,” she said.
The dental team then fundraised to buy the bell and made so much they donated $700 to cancer research at QIMR Berghofer Research Institute.
Day Oncology Unit Nurse Educator Carli Shaw said the bell would hang at the entrance of the unit for people to complete when they had completed chemo.
“It’s a very kind donation from our colleagues in dental and the sound of the bell will be welcomed by many of our patients,” Ms Shaw said.
“The sound does give others some hope too and I know that even for our patients who are palliative, they still find it in themselves to be pleased for others having a better outcome,” she said.
Last month the busy unit cared for 283 patients.
“Cancer touches so many people in our community, and chemo is a journey that can last for as little as a single cycle