Monday, December 7, 2009

happy hour

Doctor's orders: for medicinal purposes only

Tim Elliot
Sydney Morning Herald
December 05 2009

IN THE palliative care ward of Greenwich Hospital, Happy Hour starts at 11am.

This is when John Whalan, a volunteer, begins pushing his trolley, garlanded with leis and clinking with bottles of brandy and gin, through the ward, mixing tall ones for the terminally ill.

"I don't know a patient who has refused a drink," Mr Whalan, 91, says. "Champagne is fairly popular - we have little plastic flutes for that - and so is gin and tonic. We have a few whisky drinkers in the ward, too, and a lot of the men like a beer."

Mr Whalan's trolley, which is paid for by the hospital, also carries a selection of red and white wines, and cheese, biscuits, soft-drinks and chocolates, all of it free for patients. Launched at the suggestion of the hospital's volunteer group, the Happy Hour service has been running since the beginning of the year.

"At first it was daunting going into palliative care because I knew that most of the people there were going to die," Mr Whalan says. "But then I realised how much they all looked forward to it. When they hear the trolley coming they really brighten up. Just for a little while they are happier. That's why we call it Happy Hour."

Mr Whalan, a former sales manager for AMP, began volunteering for the hospital after the death of his wife, following a long period of dementia, in 2003. With his wife gone, Mr Whalan sank into a deep depression. "I couldn't function. I couldn't move. I just sat in a corner at home thinking of all the things that could take me off, and hoping it would come fast."

After a five-week stay in a local clinic, Mr Whalan emerged depression-free but searching for a purpose.

"I realised that if I didn't do something I'd just become a hopeless old man. Around the same time a friend of mine died at Greenwich Hospital. And so I volunteered here."

Patients describe Mr Whalan as extra special and terrific. Others greet him with an indignant "Where have you been?"

Mr Whalan, meanwhile, says Happy Hour works both ways.

"It makes me happy too. It's changed my life. I feel good, good about myself, and really alive. My garden is a bit of a mess, but apart from that, everything is just wonderful."

(via SMH)

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