It was a regular Monday on Mary McLellan’s 22,000-acre family property in Central Queensland, until the family’s cat took a strike at her right hand.
24 hours later Mrs McLellan became violently ill – as a triggered response to the bite – suffering from high temperatures and delirium.
After being rushed to Gladstone Hospital, medical staff quickly identified she had sepsis – a potentially deadly blood infection.
“You could get that bloody cat to bite 100 people and they wouldn’t have got sepsis – it’s just rotten luck for my wife,” Mary’s husband Peter said.
“It wasn’t long until we were flown to Rockhampton Hospital. To control the infection, antibiotics were given to bring down her blood pressure, but that constricted her blood vessels in her hands and toes.
“I was horrified when her hands and feet turned black. Doctors told us Mary would die without the antibiotics. It was possible she could lose part of her fingers and toes.”
The 66-year-old’s condition worsened and she was then flown to Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH) on May 17 where she was treated in the Intensive Care Unit.
Coming from more than six hours away in Calliope, Peter anticipated he would have to foot an expensive hotel bill during his stay.
“I stayed in a hotel for the first week and then my daughter found out about Wishlist’s accommodation. The Wishlist staff had me up in a room at Wishlist House immediately and free of charge as I qualified for the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme.”
“Wishlist House was a true blessing for me. I had my own modern private room, somewhere to wash my clothes, and the convenient location allowed me to be by Mary’s side in a heartbeat.
“There were some darker moments on my own, which is why I’m so grateful for the Wishlist volunteers who always had a spare minute to have a chat and be a sounding board.”
Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said the charity’s affordable accommodation facilities – Reed House and Wishlist House – were filled with patients and families from Wide Bay and further afield.
“Wishlist House is our closest facility to SCUH which offers a ‘home away from home’ for both rural and remote Queenslanders, as well as Sunshine Coast locals,” Ms Rowe said.
The growing demand for accommodation has led to the charity receiving a Federal Government grant to build Wishlist Centre opposite SCUH, with construction expected to begin in the coming months.
The four-level purpose-built facility will offer accommodation for patients receiving ongoing treatment and those transitioning to and from hospital.
“We are extremely grateful to the Federal Government and Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace for a $12 million grant to fund Stage One of Wishlist Centre, however more funding is needed for the fit-out.
“A further $2 million is needed by 2022 to ensure Wishlist Centre is all it must be for patients receiving ongoing medical treatment.”
Mary is now on the mend after spending a week in ICU at SCUH and is undergoing rehabilitation.
“Once Mary is given the all clear, we’ll be heading back up to our beloved farm. Even though our neighbours may be a bit further away compared to this part of the world, I’ll be the first to spread the word about Wishlist’s wonderful services in the community,” Mr McLellan said.
“I hope Mary’s story can educate and raise greater awareness of the dangers of sepsis – not only for those our age, but also young children.”
For more information on Wishlist’s affordable accommodation or Wishlist Centre, visit wishlist.org.au or phone 5202 1777.