"It's my way of saying thank you for all that they have done for me and for my people."
These are the words of proud indigenous man Don Williams, who visits the PA Hospital's (PAH) Home Training Haemodialysis Unit three times a week and holds all the nurses and staff in the highest regard.
Currently training to undertake dialysis at home in the PAH's Burke Street Home Training Haemodialysis Unit, Don was so moved by the care he's provided he arranged for a stunning indigenous artwork to be donated to the unit through a personal connection.
Don visits three times a week from his home in Jimboomba for up to four hours to perfect his home dialysis training with the aim of returning to work.
He remains resilient despite numerous health challenges including; a bi-lateral lung transplant in 2007, a fistula created for dialysis, heart attacks, blood clots in his lungs, and an unexplained ruptured spinal cord in 2018 which has left him in a wheelchair.
Indigenous artwork donated to the unit by Don Williams
It was a range of different medications for various issues with his lungs that led to his first needing dialysis in 2017. At that time, Don and his son were trained at Burke Street so his son could help him with his dialysis.
But the father of four and grandfather of 11 desired as much independence as possible and begun to retrain on his own in April 2020, and knew he wanted to return to PAH.
"When I got the approval to come back and retrain, I was just blown away. I walked in, and I was like a Cheshire cat," he said.
"I had the biggest grin on my face, all I wanted to do was cry because I felt safe, and I felt comfortable being here.
"All the nurses here are gold, even the girls at the front desk. This place is utterly amazing, the girls here they make you feel welcome, they are just so special."
Nurse Unit Manager Janine Byrne said the centre which assists around 95 patients a week has one goal in mind when patients walk through their doors.
"Our aim is to support patients and their families through kindness, compassion and skill attainment to perform their own haemodialysis treatments in the safety and comfort of their home," she said.
Janine said though a public health service, a number of areas of need exist that aren't covered by government funds which would make life for patients more pleasant.
"At the moment we need a blanket warmer and some more gel cushions for the dialysis chairs, that would be really helpful for patient comfort," she said.
Other areas where the centre would love to be able to extend their assistance to patients training for home dialysis include; accommodation for patients from regional areas, child minding for single mums, cannulation tables, nurse education and to be able to help patients with specific individual needs.
Once he completes training Don is looking forward to the freedom home dialysis will give him and wanted others in similar situations to know the centre can help give them ownership of their circumstances.
Don Williams receiving haemodialysis treatment at the PAH Burke St facility
"If people realised that rather than sit in a hospital chair three days a week, you've got the support here to help you if you want to go home," Don said.
"Nothing's in the too hard basket. They're open to listening to you, they're open to training you, if you need that extra month, you've got that extra month, you're not pushed out the door before you know what you're doing."
Don said he donated the painting because the staff mean so much to him and he wanted other indigenous Australians to know it is a safe space.
"I donated it for everything they've done for everybody, whether they're black, white, green, or purple. It's a thank you from the Australian people to say you're saving lives, you're helping people," he said.
"As indigenous people we always feel better knowing that this is an indigenous place where you're accepted.
If you would like to help the PAH Burke Street Home Training Haemodialysis Unit to assist more patients like Don, contact the PA Research Foundation on 07 3176 3810 or email firstname.lastname@example.org