Finding wound care advice 'a challenge': Wound Champion Isabella Fitzgibbon's story
Sunday, 3 September 2023
The caring role was familiar to Bella Fitzgibbon, who had already nursed her grandfather during palliative care a few years before her 83-year-old grandmother Shirley was diagnosed with an aggressive form of mouth cancer. Bella paused her career in professional cricket and moved from London to Gosford, NSW, to live with her grandmother and make her final months as comfortable as possible. 

Amidst the many health challenges her grandmother faced as the cancer progressed, wound management was one of the biggest. The location of the cancer left wounds that were more visible and harder to manage than most and, as her mobility decreased, her grandmother also developed pressure injuries. 

Finding wound care advice ‘a challenge’

But Bella says that her grandmother’s final months were more challenging than they should have been due to a lack of clear guidance on good wound care. Despite the efforts of her grandmother’s hardworking medical care team and a local wound clinic, the advice she was given was inconsistent and often contradictory, and the dressings recommended were sometimes inappropriate for her grandmother’s wounds.

Additionally, their home care package didn’t cover the full cost of the correct dressings, which were expensive.

It was through a process of trial and error – and with the advice of Bella’s brother Jordan, a nurse – that Bella was able to manage her grandmother’s wounds and improve her quality of life in those final months. Bella feels strongly that appropriate care guidance should be much easier to find.

“It was a real struggle to know where to go for the right wound care advice,” Bella says. “A patient or carer shouldn’t have to search so hard, particularly during end-of-life care, when they are already coping with so much.”

Isabella is the founder of The Mouth Cancer Charity, a charity that focuses on creating medical devices for mouth cancer patients. She is 24 years old and available for interview from Melbourne.

Pictured: Isabella Fitzgibbon with grandmother Shirley.