Shannon McKnight was a 19-year-old girl who passed away in March this year after a two year battle with leukaemia. Shannon was able to spend her last days at home with her family due to the Palliative Care Support provided by Dr. Claire Hepper and Dr. Alison O’Neill of the Creswick Medical Centre. Living near Talbot in rural Victoria, Palliative care coverage was limited and available only during business hours, with no provision for emergency care after hours. While at home, Shannon experienced a bleed into her spine, which was agonizing for her. When the ambulance that was called didn’t arrive, the McKnights contacted Dr. Hepper, who visited Shannon, administering medication to alleviate the pain. Dr. Hepper left a pack of preventative medications for emergency symptom control that proved to be vital over the next few days. The packs have become known as Shannon’s Pack, from which a not for profit organization, Shannon’s Bridge has evolved.
So who was Shannon? We met Shannon’s parents, Jeremy and Melinda McKnight and learned about Shannon and the exceptional young woman she was and about Jeremy and Melinda’s journey with their daughter. Shannon was just about to enter university when she was diagnosed. What followed was a series of trials, which required Jeremy and Shannon to live in Sydney for quite awhile, ongoing treatments and endless periods in hospitals at a time when a young girl would normally be out and about having fun and doing what teenagers do. Shannon had a spirit that defied self pity. Jeremy and Melinda tell of how their daughter’s first concern was always for others – she worried about overworking the nurses and would often refuse assistance when offered because she felt the nursing staff had done enough for the day. Melinda said “not once did Shannon ever say ‘why me’”.
They also tell of how beneficial the pack was in an unexpected way. Shannon wanted to go to Clunes just to have a cup of tea and to do something normal again. Because they had the pack with them, Shannon and her parents were confident that if they faced a crisis, they were well equipped to deal with it.
Palliative care funding is very limited as are resources resulting in a restriction of palliative care services where and when they are needed. Shannon’s pack allows families to have their loved ones at home and to help them should the need arise. The packs contain the basic medications, syringes and equipment along with detailed instructions upon usage. They are essential to patients and families to quickly limit the amount of pain and anxiety that many palliative care patients have, especially after hours when support services are extremely limited. Each pack costs $470 and Shannon’s Bridge has been set up to raise funds for the packs. However, Shannon’s Bridge does more than raise money, it helps connect patients and existing palliative care services and supports. These include training and coordinating volunteers in many areas, even the simple acts of shopping, collecting medications, light gardening and housework or even walking the dog, help in making an extremely challenging time, less so. Donations can be made to Ballarat Hospice Care Inc. please call donations Shannon’s Pack www.ballarathospicecare.org.au/make-a-donation. Alternatively go to www.gofundme.com/2825bdje For more details about Shannon’s Bridge go to shannonsbridge.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org