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True Colours

New Zealand Herald logoDecember 7, 2004 -- Phillippa Stevenson's column in today's New Zealand Herald pays tribute to palliative care nurse Cynthia Ward, founder and manager of True Colours, a new health service that "aims to support families at and from the moment their child is diagnosed with a chronic, serious or life-threatening illness."

The column, entitled "Nurse Ward helps families see the colour of caring," describes the challenges facing families with very sick young children, noting that a Nelson father was recently acquitted of charges of murdering his severely brain-damaged daughter. Ward notes that it's "important to walk along beside the family" from the time of diagnosis. True Colours, which has helped 89 families in this kind of situation since its founding in May, receives many referrals from nearby Waikato Hospital's newborn unit.

Stevenson notes that Ward had previously established a similar service called Rainbow Place, in association with Hospice Waikato. Rainbow Place was the first agency in New Zealand to focus on the care of children in families with a terminally ill member, a need that Ward felt was not being adequately addressed. It featured a "mix of counsellors and nurses offering services from play and art therapy to a sympathetic ear." Ward reportedly spent three years planning Rainbow Place, consulting families at the Hospice and a wide variety of health professionals.

Ward left Rainbow Place to establish True Colours because she reportedly felt "more could be offered outside the hospice umbrella." The name was actually chosen by "Waikato-bred" musician Tim Finn, who--along with brother Neil--are the "patrons" of True Colours. As the piece notes, the "breakthrough album" of the Finns' famous band Split Enz was 1979's "True Colours." Apparently Ward had previously cared for the Finns' ailing mother.

According to Stevenson, the main difference between the two Waikato agencies is that Rainbow Place focuses on caring for children in contexts where family members have life-threatening conditions, whereas True Colours also works in situations where the conditions are chronic, but not immediately life-threatening. Apparently the two services cooperate to ensure that families receive the help they need. Stevenson stresses that the fact that both agencies are busy even though they are so close together underlines how "sorely needed" their services are; yet "barely anything similar exists elsewhere in the country."

The Center salutes Stevenson and the New Zealand Herald for giving wider exposure to Cynthia Ward's important health care innovation and leadership. Stevenson might have explained more specifically the difference the two services make in helping children who confront serious family illness. She could have done that in the same space by devoting less than 20 lines to quoting somewhat trite lyrics from "True Colours," which she refers to twice as a Phil Collins song, though it was actually written by pop hitmakers Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly and originally recorded by Cyndi Lauper. If the columnist wanted relevant song lyrics, she need not have looked any further than the two world class songwriters who serve as patrons of True Colours, and who sometimes use colors and rainbows in addressing love and loss. This is perhaps most obvious on "All of the Colours" from the brothers' 2004 album "Everyone is Here," but Neil Finn's "She Goes On" (from the classic 1991 "Woodface" album) also includes the following:

Pretty soon you'll be able to remember her
Lying in the garden singing
Right where she'll always be
The door is always open
This is the place that I loved her
And these are the friends that she had
Long may the mountain ring
To the sound of her laughter
And she goes on and on

In her soft wind I will whisper
In her warm sun I will glisten
Till we see her once again
In a world without end

We owe it all to Frank Sinatra
The song was playing as she walked into the room
After the long weekend
They were a lifetime together
Appearing in the eyes of children
In the clear blue mountain view
Colouring in the sky
And painting ladders to heaven
And she goes on and on

Listen to a sample with Windows Media Player.

See Phillippa Stevenson's article "Nurse Ward helps families see the colour of caring" in the New Zealand Herald's December 7, 2004 edition.


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