Planning ahead

On Grand Final Day last year, Val Dunn would have loved to have been watching the Hawks take on the Eagles, even if her beloved Bombers did not even make the finals.

Instead, Val was sitting in the St Vincent’s Emergency Department. Val knows the ED well, having trained as a nurse at St Vincent’s many years ago, before becoming the nurse in charge of the ED in the 1970s.

As the siren sounded to begin the final quarter of the Grand Final, the ED doctor approached Val. ‘Sorry Val, I have some bad news for you.’ With those words, Val knew her life would be changed forever.

Val was diagnosed with terminal cancer and admitted to the ward for further treatment. Over the next few days, Val lay in bed in a room whose design she’d helped to influence, during her time at St V’s, contemplating her next steps.

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Val Dunn.

Val decided to never give up, and over the next few months she underwent many rounds of chemotherapy. During one visit Val met Sue, a Social Worker, who introduced a discussion on Advance Care Planning.

Advance Care Planning is a process of planning your future health and personal care, including your values, beliefs and preferences. This can guide doctors to make clinical decisions about your care in the future if you cannot make choices or communicate your own wishes due to lack of capacity.

Val knew what mattered to her and what her wishes were. “My nursing experience, family values and my mother’s death helped shape my views and wishes,” Val says. “I don’t want to prolong life without quality of life – I want to keep my dignity.”

Val has revised her Will and Powers of Attorney (Financial and Medical). She never married nor had any children, so she chose a trusted and knowledgeable friend to be her Medical Power of Attorney. This person will make medical treatment decisions on behalf of Val when she is no longer able to make decisions herself.

“Dignity and respect are important to me and having my Powers of Attorney and an Advance Care Plan in place has given me peace of mind,” Val says.

For further information about Advance Care Planning please visit the St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne website, or contact Caroline Scott, Advance Care Planning Program Manager on 9231 2847.

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