Stay, Breathe with Me book launch

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, June 14 2016

Stay, Breathe with Me, was just published on June 7 and will be launched at the Gabriola library on June 25 at 2p.m. Mother-daughter authors Helen Allison, and Irene Allison started drafting ideas for the concept of this book 15 years ago. Irene Allison took some time to talk about publishing this important book on the gift of compassionate medicine.

“It’s been a heck of a long journey but we’re here now,” says Irene. “This was a book project with my mother. It’s been a mothers-daughter endeavor, based on my mother’s life experience working with palliative care. She helped set up first palliative care unit in Canada, that was at St. Boniface hospital in Winnipeg in 1974.  She retired probably 15 years ago now.”

Irene says her mother kept working past retirement age, and worked across Canada, dedicating her life to helping patients and putting them first. 

“I think we’re all born with natural talents. My mother is a natural care giver, she has a beautiful sense of how to help someone when they’re suffering. That gift was solidified by doing trainer as a nurse in Scotland in late 1940s. When she was 12-years-old, she survived the complete bombing of Clydebank, in Scotland in 1941. Only seven houses of 12, 000 homes were left in tact.” 

Irene says their book is for anyone who wants to learn about what happens in serious illness and when we’re in situation where cure is not possible. It’s not a manual but Irene hopes it will raise awareness about what is happening right now in our medical system.

“We’re in a perfect storm and there are three elements to the storm. As a society, we fear serious illness and death and dying and we don’t talk about it. 

“We are also an aging population, chronic serious illness is on the increase, and we have a medical system focused on cure and not care. The third storm is the general lack of understanding and info in public. People are afraid of palliative care and hospices and they don’t know that the hospital isn’t best place to get help if you have an incurable disease. There is a lack of political will, funding and commitment. 75-85 % of Canadians do not receive palliative care services when they need it. This is huge. It’s shocking because we are an advanced country.”

The aggressive technological focus dating back to the 1990s means that care is a lost art, says Irene. Doctors are taught emotional distance and professional separation from their patients because in a sense this allows them to be more professional in their judgement and focus on symptoms. 

Jane Phillpott, Minister of Health was interviewed in January, says Irene and she acknowledged that only 15% of people have access to high quality palliative care when they need it. 

“Illness is a human journey, that all of us share, and by walking toward the ill, with care and support, palliative care and hospice offer a beautiful service to the most vulnerable,” Irene says. “And we must never forget that hospice is a seven letter word and whose core and heart is hospitality.”

Irene’s mother Helen is not well enough to come to the book launch. She is suffering a critical illness in Winnipeg.

“This has been bittersweet,” says Irene “This journey together is about getting a book out with a beautiful message about caring for the most vulnerable in society. Now my mother and I facing another journey.”