Palliative Care Queensland

Ambulance Wish Queensland’s First Wish Recipient – Betty Dowsett


What would be your dying wish? One last trip to the beach to see the sunrise. A visit home to say a final farewell to your beloved pets. Perhaps, a passionfruit ice cream in the park watching ducks paddle and children play. For 92-year-old Betty Dowsett the chance to leave palliative care to spend a few hours in the sunshine in Brisbane’s City Botanic Gardens was pure joy. And for the volunteer paramedics who took her on the short journey, it was a rare opportunity to help create a precious memory for a dying patient.

Modelled on a program that started in the Netherlands, Ambulance Wish Queensland is the first in Australia to offer terminally ill patients the chance to fulfil their final wish.

Run by Palliative Care Queensland, AWQ started as a passion project for Gold Coast mum Anne-Marie Dykstra who became consumed by the idea after seeing the image of two Hervey Bay ambulance officers taking a terminally ill woman for one final look at the ocean.

Mrs Dykstra said she just loved the image and started to research similar stories and discovered the Dutch charity, which started in 2007 and has since been adopted in several countries.

“So many people have experiences where someone they love, the last moments of their lives have been horrific,” she said. “I just felt we could do something here that could connect people in their dying days and bring something truly wonderful into our community.”

Mrs Dykstra tried to get the project up and running for nearly two years but it wasn’t until she met Shyla Mills, the CEO of PCQ, that the idea really took off.

In July, with the support of the Queensland Government, which donated a de-commissioned ambulance and initial funding of $50,000, Betty became the first wish recipient. Sadly, she passed away just five weeks later.

Betty became a resident of the palliative care unit at Canossa Private Hospital after a fall at her Mt Gravatt home where she lived with her daughter Barbara.

The mother of eight, grandmother of 19 and great grandmother of 29 said she loved being outside and misses pottering in her garden. Her wish was to see some flowers – her favourites were chrysanthemums and carnations – and to have a passionfruit ice cream.

Escorted by paramedics Darren Lawrence and Innes Askew, who volunteered their time for the program, Betty got to meet State Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles, who brought her the treasured ice cream, and to spend time in the botanic gardens with her nurse, Angela Lane.

Mr Lawrence said it was a great privilege to help fulfil Betty’s wish and the program was fantastic for paramedics who would really enjoy the chance to give something back to the patients.

“The smile on Betty’s face has been priceless. This is just a great opportunity that everyone should get involved with. Betty has just been so kind and is such a loving person. She is so grateful for us to do this for her, it just makes everyone feel good. It’s a gift.”

AWQ needs volunteers and sponsors to provide this service to as many Queenslanders as possible. If you can help please go to the website and register your interest.

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