Earlier this week during National NAIDOC Week, we heard from Mary, one of our very own dialysis nurses, who recently travelled to the Northern Territory to undertake a work placement supporting patients with renal failure.
The Purple House is an innovative Indigenous-owned health service that support Aboriginals through their health journey. Kidney failure requires complex lifesaving dialysis three times a week and due to the continuous nature of the treatment, patients need to live close to a dialysis unit. This often means relocating far from home and patients can suffer great loneliness when they’re away from their communities and unable to pass on cultural knowledge.
The Purple House (formally known as Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation) opened its first dialysis unit in Kintore in 2000 and has now grown to 16 clinics in local communities across the region, meaning patients are able to remain closer to home.
During Mary’s presentation to KDH staff, she asked ‘how long would any of us last away from our family and community support, with people who speak a different language and have procedures that are foreign to our culture?’.
After initially working in Alice Springs, where The Purple House has two dialysis chairs and can only dialyse in the morning, Mary transferred to Yuendumu, a town 293km northwest of Alice Springs. It is a community largely made up of the Warlpiri and Anmatyerr Aboriginal people.
Her work at The Purple House in Yuendumu was not what she expected and dialysis was only a small part of her role:
“A typical day might include driving patients to and from the Purple House, changing a flat tyre, dodging some dogs, making breakfast and lunch, organising transport and accommodation for patients travelling to medical appointments in Alice, and doing the washing. And at the same time, I was overseeing the dialysis itself!”
Mary said it was important to learn about the culture of the Aboriginal patients in her care. She engaged in local community activities and was genuine and open with those around her:
“I was given the Walpari skin name ‘Nungarrayi’. This is such an honour for me to be welcomed into an Aboriginal family and I now have quite the extended family!’.
Mary returned to Alice Springs earlier this week for her second work placement with The Purple House and we wish her every success with her trip!