Friday, April 29, 2011

Its been raining much of the last week - but just for the moment the sun came out and it was just so amazingly beautiful out here. There was even a rainbow although we have rain predicted for the next few days - everything seems to be glistening with light. Sometimes when you get exactly the right angle the raindrops in the branches show all colours of the rainbow with such an intensity one could imagine all sorts of things - what amazes me is the beauty around us that most times we don 't notice till it comes up and smacks us fair in the chops like this morning - already as I type this the clouds have covered the sun and its dark again.

Here's a thought that has crossed my mind a few times in my life - The earth, the sky all of it can be just so achingly beautiful, the flowers, the hills, the ocean, people, even buildings - can take our breath away - the earth could have been monochrome, all bleak and colourless and mankind would still be able to live I guess - but what amazes me is why? Why is it so beautiful - It doesn't need to be beautiful, there is no reason why there is so much brilliant colour on birds wings, and flowers - all roses could be yellow, all dogs black - and it is the wild splashes of colour which our eyes and hearts seek - but its not really needed for the world to function - it'd be a much poorer world and life without all the beauty, less songs might be written, less paintings - even amongst human beings - why the variety of races and in those races why the individual differences caused of course by our DNA first and then all the things that happen to us between conception and death - but where did blue eyes come from - as they say we all came from Africa - from one tribe or race - where did all the differences in colour come from and in such a short time? And why? The colour, the difference and the beauty are needed for the human heart to soar but they are not needed for any apparent practical reason really.

A thought occurred and that is maybe all sentient beings see and appreciate the beauty around - but mankind has been allowed or developed the ability to express and record and therefore share these feelings so that I can read what Robbie Burns felt about his world so many years ago, and I can hold the thoughts that expressed not just the beauty but the ugliness; the joys and sadness of people some thousand years gone. I get a bit annoyed with people who are down on mankind as if we were an alien species here on this planet... we are as much a part of the beauty and life of this planet as any river or stream - and although there has been destruction by some - often in ignorance, but just as often with malice , just so there have been wonderful and amazing feats to match - and so the balance is more than struck.

On mornings like this its hard not to feel that although we are often hammered with all thats bad on this planet, there are many more good and beautiful things - its just that we don't remember to take the moment to notice - just as on another morning I would have left the house barely noticing... just a thought train.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

This is the alpha male kangaroo who guards the path to my letterbox. I have photos of his harem and they are all sweet and gentle looking - but this bastard sits back and props as I go outside down the path to the gate. Every move I make seems to be a challenge to him. Last time -  he sat back so far and raised up his body by using his tail as a third leg o front paws and claws raised  - as I drove in my big white van down to the gate (too bloody scared to walk) he did not move a muscle except to make himself look bigger - and he was bigger about a foot taller than me and with claws to die for - somehow this was not the Skippy I remember from my early days...

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

I think an old hippie lives here

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"T'is the last rose of summer, left blooming all alone"

Outside this afternoon its still 25 degrees but is well into Autumn and this rose has been catching my eye for a day...there are others but this one is just so beautiful. Don and I had a friend Alan, who died a year before Don did - and we had known him since 1975 - he stuck after Don's accident...I can remember him all those years ago with his blonde curly mop of hair, becoming upset over a dark red rose which had fallen apart...he was comparing it to how life is...we were so young then - He was an artist who earned his pennies by window dressing store windows and self declared in the days it was a little dangerous to declare that he was "as camp as a row of tents" - He was pretty keen on Don in the beginning but sadly had to be disappointed as Don was really straight - I knew why he liked Don to look at - the way he was made -who wouldn't? I was never jealous - even if there was any risk its not part of my make up - I liked him too and many is the time he came down on my side when Don was being a bit too blokey.
Towards the latter years they would talk for ages on the phone each abusing the other, but with no malice - the day Don found out Alan had just gone to sleep and died (maybe a stroke - we never found out) he rang me - I was visiting the girls in Sydney - and he cried and cried. We have many acquaintances in life, and some friends but for some of us there are only one or if lucky two truly good friends - people you would trust your soul to. Alan was this for us...and we could talk for hours on any subject known - history, religion - (or lack of), goings on etc - like Don Alan did not suffer fools gladly - and both having the same last name there was something of one in the other - but so different in many ways. We only have one photo of him and it was taken in the early eighties -but he never seemed to change apart from a few wrinkles.A perfect rose like this always brings Alan to mind. I know Alan would like to be remembered in this way and I think he would be surprised at the preciousness of that memory for me and I don't really know why apart from the fact he was such a good decent and funny person and a stayer...
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Just back!

Just back from Sydney and Melbourne - It was really lovely spending some time with my daughters. I slept better than I have for ages and I guess hadn't realised how lonely I was feeling - it was so good to wake up in a house with other people there - more so because between the girls and I its so relaxed and I don't have to be or do anything other than just be there. I stopped at Sydney first and caught up with Melissa and Chris. He's really putting an effort into learning to walk again - by building up his shoulder strength so he can handle crutches (first) and then work on balancing on his new leg which he gets on Thursday - the first of many no doubt - Melissa seems so vulnerable of late and my heart really goes out to her. There is more I could say but not here. Then on to see Alison and her Andrew. They took me to see their block of land and even around to see it late one evening after the water was connected. They are building down near Point Cook (too expensive to buy a home in Melbourne) and I admit it that as flat as the area is, you can smell the bay and I liked the feel to it. We had bought tickets to the Tutankhamun exhibit way back, as well for Melissa and Chris who had to miss out sadly. It was something else...very crowded -  but the detail on some of the statues and furniture was amazing - I doubt that we could reproduce their art today unless we use modern technology - it was amazing to be so close to artefacts which had been handmade three thousand three hundred years ago - its an odd feeling to look at things someone sat over and carved - a good thing the exhibits were encased in glass - because like most I would have loved to have touched things - no wonder the Egyptian people were pissed off with their own government for allowing the treasures to leave Egypt - I doubt this will ever happen again.

Melissa on the last morning - it was really glary and we had stayed up late talking so she was having trouble keeping her eyes open - but I begged and she relented - I think she was over having photos taken.

Melissa and Chris and their scary cat Spooky

Ali and I down at Point Cook

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sarah's Last Wish

Eve Hillary author of Sarah's Last wish has paired her book with mine which is just wonderful of her - so I don't just have my website but also features on hers. At the book launch in September she gave a brilliant and understanding speech which she has reproduced on her site - its the tab "Speech by Eve hillary" and can be read there but will reproduce it below - in the last half she offers an insightful explanation of why the Hospitals are in such a mess -along with underfunding and attitude problems.

I will be seeing Melissa and Chris this week and then my youngest and her husband. So away for about 10 days. Hope all are well in the in between. Hoping and praying also that the docs can restore some of Chris' sight which was lost at the same time as his leg was taken... I feel positive - he needs that sight to improve

Therese Mackay's 'Without Due Care' a book launch speech at NSW  Parliament 
by Eve Hillary 

Speech by Eve Hillary
In the free and prosperous 1970’s Donald and Therese Mackay lived as a typical Aussie couple. They rented a pretty cottage for $12 a week where they raised their two daughters, Alison and Melissa in the sleepy NSW town of Port Macquarie. Even then, Don and Therese cared about people. Their tireless community work clearly showed their humanitarian values.  

‘Then one sunny day in January 1982’ - Therese writes in her book - ‘life changed’. Don broke his neck at work and became a quadriplegic. The public hospital system of the 1980’s gave him emergency care and rehabilitation. When he returned home, Therese became Don’s full time carer. Despite his severe disability Don overcame all obstacles and resumed his role as husband and father. Therese remained a devoted wife and incredibly, together they continued giving to their community. They supported social justice and access to good health care for all Australians. 

In 2007, after a lifetime of social contributions, it was Don who needed help from the health care system. For 25 years, with Therese’s help, he had maintained his health and stamina despite the daunting challenges of his quadriplegia, but now fluid was slowly accumulating in his lung and it had to be drained. Medically it was a simple problem to fix, and people didn’t normally die from it. But the health care system that had treated Don so adequately for a broken neck 25 years earlier had disappeared and in its place a newly ‘reformed’ health system had emerged by 2007 which Don and Therese found unrecognizable, strange and frightening. This time a robust ginger haired Don wheeled his chair into an understaffed hospital with peeling paint and dirt encrusted floors. Instead of a simple low risk drainage procedure, doctors chose a high risk option not suitable for a quadriplegic. For the next five weeks Don suffered nightmarish complications and was reduced to a wretched state of being fully conscious but unable to breathe without a respirator. After five torturous weeks, doctors decided to withdraw Don’s ‘treatment’. This meant sending him home and without any further ado, taking him off the ventilator. Both Don and Therese knew this was a death sentence and Therese begged doctors to allow Don to have a home ventilator at least for a while longer but this was denied - the air ambulance officers were instructed to remove Don from the $500 machine that was the size of a breadbox, his only connection to life. The macabre medical arrangement was executed exactly as planned. On 17 May 2007 Don was transported back to his home in Port Macquarie, fully alert. He believed that his life no longer mattered to the health care system, and that health professionals had made the decision to ‘terminate’ his life. Those were the terms he was forced to accept if he was to be allowed to go home - and he desperately wanted to go home after what he had endured at the hospital. It wasn’t the way he had wanted to die and Therese had tried everything humanly possible to avoid such a terrible death for Don. For emotionally normal people it is agonizing even to imagine what Don’s last thoughts might have been when the ambulance officers removed from him the machine that helped him to breathe. After the medics left with the machine, Don lived for several hours longer, surrounded by Therese and his two daughters. Don was fully conscious and mentally sharp and his heart was still strong until the very end when he simply couldn’t manage another breath for himself. 

Two months ago, Therese Mackay generously sent me her manuscript to preview. After reading ‘Without Due Care’, I cried for Therese and for her two daughters and I mourned for Don. After that, I wept again, this time for the hospital where I had once worked for over a decade. I had walked those corridors, worked in those intensive care units where Don had spent his final weeks - but had done so years before the ‘health care reforms’. 

In 1987 I was a proud member of an intensive care health team in a public hospital with an international reputation for excellence. We attracted the best clinicians, VMOs and nursing staff in the country. We were affiliated with a top Sydney University, conducted world class research and ground breaking surgery. We pioneered transplantation and I was proud to be a part of medical technologies that helped people and saved lives. Yes, we had dying patients - most were unconscious, but we strove to give them as much comfort and dignity as possible. In my 35 years in high level health care, we had never withdrawn a ventilator from a patient who was not irreversibly brain dead, and I had never heard of a conscious patient having their ventilator turned off and be left to die because a system had deemed it. So, what happened? 

I began my health care career in 1969 when the hospital system was not-for-profit and operated to serve the needs of the community. As a professional, I had an ethical code and my hospital’s regulations to live up to, but most of all I was there to serve the patient’s needs. I never considered my role as making money for a corporation. 
Changes to the system began in the 1988 when the NSW Government awarded private health corporations lucrative contracts to build private hospitals on sites already occupied by public hospitals - called co-location. The corporations persuaded certain government ministers that their proposed private hospitals would take the pressure off the public system and save taxpayers money. Instead, it cost taxpayers even more, as private companies tapped a rich vein of public money through PPP’s (private public partnerships). Throughout the 1990’s the government bestowed contracts onto corporations like confetti until the NSW Auditor-General, Mr Tony Harris warned that public servants should not enter into grossly disadvantageous [to the taxpayer] deals with the private sector and that, ‘the Government is, in effect, paying for the hospital twice and giving it away [to the corporations].’ Dr Refshauge the NSW Minister for Health agreed. ‘We are not going to privatize hospitals. We believe that the public sector is important and should not be flogged off,’ he said in the NSW Parliament in 1997. The Parliamentary Member for the South Coast, John Hatton argued that deals should be transparent and revealed to the public, which has a right to know. Ironically, Donald Mackay, also spoke out against hospital privatization and joined in a campaign to return the privatized Port Macquarie Hospital back to the people of NSW. But overall, the deals continued and so-called hospital ‘reforms’ were fuelled by special interests and doctor advocates who spoke out in favour of the corporations. 

I recall when the first spade of earth was turned on my hospital campus. With massive injections of millions of NSW taxpayer dollars, a health corporation built a luxurious marble and glass private hospital over the old car-park site adjacent to the public hospital. The citadel was obscured from view behind the public hospital building and nestled into a manicured enclave. By 1998 it opened to service the wealthy and well insured of Sydney’s North Shore. The health corporation ran its private hospital as a business; but with even more taxpayer funding and bequests from wealthy socialites , the corporation’s share price quintupled and investors were paid healthy dividends. With the global private sector takeover of the once public hospital systems in western countries came a new philosophy which was noted by several worried health professionals at the time. The New England Journal of Medicine (August 5, 1999) stated: ‘Our main objection to investor-owned care is not that it wastes taxpayers' money, nor even that it causes modest decrements in quality. The most serious problem with such care is that it embodies a new value system that severs the communal roots and Samaritan traditions of hospitals, makes doctors and nurses the instruments of investors, and views patients as commodities’. 

By 1999 my public teaching hospital, which had loyally served the northern Sydney public since 1885, had become orphaned in its own home by the co-located intruder. As in twin transfusion syndrome when twins share the same placenta unequally, the private hospital twin received all the life blood while the anaemic public twin was barely able to stay alive. As conditions deteriorated alarmingly in the public hospital, top medical and nursing staff left in droves resulting in a permanent staff shortage, the building fell into disrepair, the top storeys were water damaged from a leaky roof, the floors were dirt encrusted, the windows grimy, the toilets disgraceful and the medical equipment had deteriorated and become hopelessly outdated. By 2005, the once world renown public hospital resembled a third world setup. Even I left the hospital after seeing where it was headed. The health system had adopted a chilling model of economic rationalism that was well beyond any one person’s ability to fix. I desperately hoped that the monstrous system that had destroyed this Australian icon would not one day claim the lives of innocent people. It would be only a few short years before my worst fears came true. 

It was into this health system and into this public hospital that Donald Mackay was admitted on April 11, 2007. He required thoughtful medical assessment, adequate nursing care and a safe and simple procedure to be performed in a hygienic environment. He required his basic, human needs to be met. Once, all Australian public hospitals were up to this standard of care. But Don got none of these. The system that had destroyed this once top public hospital would also come to destroy Donald, the man who cared for people. Then it would continue to destroy lives until it became the subject of a Parliamentary enquiry in 2007. Since then, not much has changed systemically. 

Honoured guests, I give you Therese Mackay’s book: Without Due Care. She writes on behalf of Don, her family and for all of us. Please read it. We need to know what kind of health system we have, and how it came to be what it is. We need to know how our Parliamentarians voted on health issues, who the special interests are and whether they have the public interest at heart. Why? Because this could happen to you or your family. Instead, this must never happen again. Please give your support to those candidates and others who genuinely strive to improve the system and work in the public interest. 

Eve Hillary 
Journalist, Health professional 
Author of Sarah’s Last Wish: a chilling glimpse into forced medicine