A Full Circle with Sue
Volunteer. Nurse. Bereaved mother – Sue Pollard’s journey with Waipuna Hospice spans almost three decades, and is one rich in love, loss, and discovery.
29 years ago, Sue Pollard began her journey with Waipuna Hospice in a little weatherboard house by the hospital as a volunteer. With a “heart for people,” Sue was driven to help. So, two years later when the opportunity to apply for the first official nurse position came up, she applied.
In Sue’s words, hospice in Tauranga was “established on love. We were all volunteers for those first few years and it was about loving our patients. As nurses, we were motivated by love and relationships, rather than disease and protocols; it inspired a wonderful work environment with the team, a team which grew quickly.”
The heart is everything when it comes to Sue Pollard’s personal philosophy of hospice care. “I am passionate about caring for people in the final stages of life,” explains Sue. “It is not just about caring for someone with a disease. It is inspiring to work with the whole person – physical, social, spiritual – and their family.”
Although Sue had nursed hundreds of patients and worked closely with their families, nothing prepared her for the shock of losing her daughter Ruth to a brain tumour.
“When Ruth was first diagnosed with a brain tumour, it was a huge shock. Even though I knew the potential symptoms, I didn’t allow my brain to go there at first. However, I know my years of experience equipped me to face whatever time we had left with her.
Ruth was incredibly courageous and faced every battle in ways that blew everyone away. Being pregnant, she was even more determined to not only have this precious baby but spend as much time with her as possible. I had to let go of my role as a Hospice nurse and be a mum and grandmother. It wasn’t easy, but it was important.
The hardest time for me came in the year after Ruth died. It’s often not so much the grief of losing a person that takes its toll but all the things that are lost as a result of that loss.”
Although incredibly challenging, going on that personal journey helped Sue tremendously in her job. “It not only helped me emotionally, but also helped me make decisions and deal with the flak that flies around every family in this kind of situation. All the negativity that will come, all the battles that you face – having walked that path personally, I was able to recognise and understand a little of this huge challenge in their lives,” explains Sue.
Having visited and been involved with other hospices, Sue believes Waipuna is one of the best in New Zealand. “People just can’t believe our level of care and dedication to giving not only our patient, but their families, the best possible support. They were usually blown away by the devotion of the staff, and the dedication to care for them and their families.”
Having started as a volunteer Sue emphasises how vital volunteers continue to be to the organisation. “Volunteers help Waipuna Hospice function. Without them we would just be a clinic of some kind. We would not be this big, pulsing heart.”
Despite having retired from nursing, Sue has returned to her original posting as a Waipuna Hospice volunteer. “Helping people and giving back is my passion, it’s what drives me – it’s why I am still involved today.”
“To this day, one of my favourite things about volunteering is being able to come alongside people and encourage them and brighten their day.”
Over almost three decades Sue went from volunteer, to hospice nurse, to bereaved mother, then back to Volunteer – Sue truly is a hospice hero.
Waipuna Hospice would like to say thank you to Sue Pollard for sharing her story with us. If you would like to share your story please click here.
This story was first published in our newsletter – Waipuna Connections, issue 75.
If you need support and are a Waipuna Hospice patient or family member, please call us on 07 552 4380 – our counsellors are available to you Monday – Friday, excluding public holidays. Alternatively, if you aren’t a Waipuna Hospice patient or family member and need support, you can free-call or text 1737. 1737 is a free service for anyone who needs to talk to a counsellor, and it’s open 24/7.