Marymount starts on TV3 tonight

My friend Cliona Nolan edited this series, Marymount which starts tonight on Tv3. Its well worth a look I’d say
Here’s what the Irish Times had to say about it

Hospices are too often associated with immense sadness, but a new series hopes to show the positive side of palliative care, writes BRIAN O’CONNELL

MENTION THE word “hospice” to many people, and the initial reaction will be one of fear and dread. Fairly or otherwise, hospices are associated with death and dying, and much of what happens inside their walls is witnessed only by patients, their families and staff.

Hospices are not open wards, or accessed on a regular basis by members of the public for routine reasons, and as a result the impression among the public is that hospices are a place of last resort.

A new TV3 documentary series, which airs tonight at 10pm, is looking to document the extraordinary courage and human spirit often found on hospice wards, and at the same time tell the story of the contribution such a facility can make to its local area. The hospice in question – St Patrick’s Hospital and Marymount Hospice in Cork – has been in existence for 141 years and last September moved to a new custom-built palliative care facility on the south side of Cork city.

The series, Marymount, documents that move and in the process tells the story of some of the patients and staff who live and work in the facility. For families of former patients who took part – some of whom are now deceased – the series is a chance to allow their loved ones tell their story with dignity.

Vicky Sjaellaender’s mother, Carmel Lynch, spent some time in the hospice battling cancer. When Carmel was first diagnosed and received treatment in 2009, it was suggested she be admitted to the hospice to help recuperate.

“When medical staff suggested she go to Marymount, we nearly fell down to the ground,” says Vicky. “We thought that was it and Mum was going to die. There is a real stigma attached to it. But the staff there got her medication directly into her and got it under control.

“Mum left Marymount and had a good quality of life for about two and a half years.”

When Carmel was admitted to the hospice again late last summer, her family knew time was not on her side. Vicky had a baby by this stage, and one day, while visiting, she and her mother noticed film cameras on the ward.

“Mum said to me, tell them come down to film my daughter Isabel. They said they were making a documentary and would Mum be interested in taking part. I was really surprised my mum took part. She was never a quiet or shy person but she was private about her illness. I think she did it because she thought it might have helped somebody else.

“Mum was really like that. In hindsight, she knew that time was running out. She thought this was her way of helping.”

Carmel passed away some time later, and in her final weeks, the cameras captured some of her thoughts as well as meetings with medical staff. Her family also contribute to the programme, but are keen to stress their reasons for doing so are not out of any great desire for the family to be on national television. “I suppose we are worried that people will think their mother was dying and all they were worried about was being on television,” Vicky says. “It wasn’t like that at all. We agreed to take part after her death because it was a brave thing of my mum to take part initially and say her piece.”

For Dr Tony O’Brien, who is consultant physician in palliative medicine at Marymount Hospice and Cork University Hospital, the reasons for allowing filming of the series were to document the move to a new facility, and also to prompt a greater understanding from the public towards the whole hospice environment. Staff also wanted to show that life may undoubtedly be difficult for some patients, but it does go on while they are receiving treatment: grandchildren are born, life decisions are made and there can be moments of great joy as well as sadness.

“There is often an understandable sense of fear around hospices in the minds of the general public,” O’Brien explains. “It is termed end-of-life care and that view has been inappropriately promoted in many countries including Ireland. The fact is, a hospice is primarily concerned with living and with enabling people to live their lives to their greatest possible extent.”

He says the film production company, M3TV Ltd, had a track record in making sensitive medical documentaries (the same company is behind the RTÉ series, From Here to Maternity) and this convinced hospital staff they would approach the subject matter in the appropriate way. The results are honest, informative and empowering, and should help to broaden public understanding of palliative care.

“The production team came and spent a lot of time on the wards meeting patients and families and explaining to them what was going on. This isn’t for everybody. Not everyone wants to tell their story on television,” O’Brien says. “But what was surprising to me was the number who did want to take part. I feel there is a real value in people telling their story and hope that will come through.”

Marymount is broadcast on TV3 tonight and February 7th at 10pm

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