Meet Lifetime Member Donna Huddleston of Corpus Christi, Texas, USA, who joined IAHPC in 2007.
By Alison Ramsey
IAHPC Newsletter Editor
Retired nursing education professor Donna Huddleston describes her attraction to a career in palliative care in the gentlest of voices, in an everyday tone: “Providing comfort, and not abandoning people. I don’t like it when people are abandoned.” A heartbeat later, she adds softly, “They don’t like it either.”
Donna, now 74, did her PhD in nursing science at the University of Illinois in the 1970s alongside an international student from Thailand, Puangtip Chaiphibalsarisdi. The students in the program—a small, tightknit group—formed lasting friendships. The one between Tippy and Donna endured and deepened, leading to a decades-long relationship of mutual learning between palliative care providers in Texas and Asia.
It began during the HIV crisis in the 1980s.
In Thailand, “people were dumping their loved ones at the side of the road. Monks were creating co-ops to help them, and did a really good job of it, too,” says Donna. Tippy knew that Donna had taught a self-care class when she was a teaching assistant, and suggested that she teach local practitioners self-care skills for HIV-positive women. Over the next decade, she gave dozens of the presentations during her school breaks in Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and more.
When the crisis waned, she switched focus to presentations on palliative care.
“The first one I did was at Chulalongkorn University,” in Bangkok. Donna thought that she would be addressing nurses, and was astonished to see the room fill with physicians. Her talk must have been compelling; she later learned that it impelled them to set up palliative care beds in an existing unit. The education, however, was traveling both ways.
“Complementary and alternative medicine is very big over there, even in hospitals,” she notes. Donna learned about palliative acupuncture from Dr. L. Akkayagron during a tour of palliative care units in a Bangkok hospital. They later presented a paper on the topic at the 3rd Annual Hospice Symposium in Corpus Christi.
In her tours, she also saw the benefits of massage provided as part of regular hospital care. Over the years, Tippy gave demonstrations in the US, including reflexology for senior citizens, and visited Donna to collaborate on research projects; they are currently working on a paper about traditional Thai massage and its healing properties, focusing on moving the temple-taught practice into Thai colleges and universities. Donna repeated the reflexology demo for Texas nursing students just a few years ago.
Giving and getting knowledge was attractive, but the real impetus for Donna was the friendships forged. “We still call, text, and email all the time.”
About 10 years ago, while in hospital with a fractured knee, Donna heard someone with dementia crying “Help me! Help me!” all night long. Stuck in bed, she realized that she wasn’t sure how to help even if she were mobile. “So I educated myself. We shouldn’t let people suffer like this, even if they can’t verbalize that they’re suffering.”
For the past decade, in addition to her part-time job organizing ongoing courses for practicing nurses, she teaches a course on empathy for dementia patients. Students gain understanding by wearing goggles that cut off peripheral vision, shoes that make walking painful, headphones that play disorienting noises, and gloves that hamper hands. Then they’re given five physical tasks; most can’t complete more than two.
“One woman told me that her mom was being mean to her dad (who had Alzheimer’s), and that changed after she attended my class. It made me feel really good, as that was the goal: Not just teach it to one person, but to have them use it.”
This is where we celebrate IAHPC members’ accomplishments and awards. Tell us about yours!
Regina Okhuysen-Cawley, Julia Downing, and Marianne Phillips were three of the coauthors of “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Early Ripple Effects in Pediatric Palliative Care” published in Children in April. The authors explore the impact the pandemic had on children globally, its impact on health care systems, as well as silver linings that appeared.
Dr. Nahla Gafer is the subject of “A Quiet Revolution: Palliative Care in Sudan,” a portrait by Imogen Thurbon that is posted on the Women’s Literacy Sudan blog. The first instalment, “Part 1: Behind the Scenes,” is now live. The next instalment, being posted a week after the first, is on “the challenges Dr. Gafer faces, stories from patients, the transformative power of home visits and the remarkable people who work with her.”
William Rosa and Felicia Knaul, a member of theIAHPC Board, wrote the commentary, “A Longevity Society Requires Integrated Palliative Care Models for Historically Excluded Older People,” published in The Lancet in April. It discusses the need for an equitable palliative care system to alleviate serious health-related suffering, particularly for populations with poorer quality of life outcomes.”
IAHPC Chair Lukas Radbruch was one of four coauthors of “Humour Workshops for Staff Working in Palliative Care” published in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology in May. The article reports on a small study to measure the positive effects that humor brings about in palliative care teams. It demonstrated “improvements in distress levels, cheerfulness, seriousness and bad mood,” nothing that “[c]areful scheduling and organization of the workshops seems to be necessary in order for staff members to participate and benefit from them.”
IAHPC Board Member Chitra Venkateswaran was one of 16 coauthors of “Stigma and Mental Health Problems in an Indian Context. Perceptions of People with Mental Disorders in Urban, Rural and Tribal Areas of Kerala” published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry in May. The article explores the notion of stigma in an Indian context by considering the lived experience of patients, carers, and community members. It concludes that, in the Indian context, the idioms of stigma emphasized impairments in marriage eligibility and the implications for the family group rather than just the self.
A list of individuals who joined, or renewed their membership with, IAHPC during the past month.
|Jennifer Ellis||United States|
|Martina Mc Hugh||Ireland|
|Victor Rolando Samayoa Morales||Guatemala|
|Julia Downing||South Africa|
|Lucy Kishindo Finch||Malawi|
|Greither Quincoces Pulido||Cuba|
|Preston Edwards||United States|
|Maria M. Marroquin||Colombia|
|Zee Nee Lim||Malaysia|
|Mirza Jacqueline Alcalde Castro Lifetime||Canada|
|Rosa Maria Martinez Villanueva||Peru|
|Abena Foriwaa Amoatin-Agyeman||Ghana|
|Sandhya Shamshankar Rajhans||India|
|Carlos Mario Acevedo Catano||Colombia|
|Ann Abiola Ogbenna||Nigeria|
|Andrea Martínez de la Vega Celorio||Mexico|
|Caroline LaPlace||United States|
See the full list of IAHPC members