Hello Cruel World
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Obituary: Emma Veitch
I was stunned to read this, having done a search for my friend's name on the web. The date is my birthday last year, when I had not long left hospital & probably wasn't quite up to reading the papers through. The disease Emma died of is the same as the one I am hopefully recovering from.
Harriet was my best friend through much of Primary & part of High School, until she was taken off travelling with her family & then placed in an independent progressive-type school, when we lost touch except for occasional cards. I spent quite a while visiting the family at home (Jock was amusic journalist and Ida, after they separated, worked as an English teacher), so knew her sisters as well - though I would spend much of the visit curled up on a squashy vinyl lounge by the large windows overlooking the trees & houses stretching down towards Quaker's Hat Bay with one of their large collection of books.
Sydney Morning Herald, 28th August, 2001
A whiz with a sword wound
Emma Veitch was born precipitately, half an hour after the doctor had told our mother that the baby wouldn't arrive for another week and left on his rounds.
So she was born at home, as our mother wanted - and on August 3, not on the August 10 birthday shared by her two big sisters, as our mother also wanted.
This showed, her sisters often felt, that she had inherited rather more than her share of the family stubbornness, but this determination helped her when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer two days before her 41st birthday.
She was told then (although she didn't tell us) that she had only a 10 per cent chance of surviving until Christmas last year, but she made it to Christmas and on until two weeks after her 42nd birthday, determined to survive as long as possible for her daughter, Rosamund.
Emma was by all accounts (except perhaps those of her big sisters) a charming child, always smiling and causing old ladies to stop in the street to pat her on the head.
She left school at 17 and our mother thought she should try nursing as a job.
She started her training at Balmain Hospital, in the days when nursing was a certificate course done in hospitals rather than universities. Her introduction to nursing was a Saturday night shift in casualty; all right, she said, until the pubs closed and people started hitting each other.
Emma was not tall, and she had a sweet face that made her look about 12 in those days, so the police tried to protect her from the worst that night ("Don't look at this one, love"), but eventually the crush of work was so much that she had to be given a job .
So she was set to stitching up a man's scalp and soon found a circle of staff around her admiring her handiwork. She was a keen embroiderer and the others were so impressed by her neat work that she ended up teaching a number of young doctors how to do cross-stitch work for practice.
Emma loved nursing and went on in her 30s to do her degree in health sciences and take a number of postgraduate certificates. She was by then working at the Blue Mountains District Hospital and became a clinical nurse specialist there.
In 1987 she married Sean Turkington, and on her first wedding anniversary took home their daughter, Rosamund Jean. She settled into a life of happily bossing patients and family members, particularly her sisters, always knowing what was best for us and making sure we went to the doctor as ordered.
Nurses, of course, always know the worst thing that can happen, and tell you about it: "If you don't go to the doctor you'll get gangrene and lose that hand."
In the family she was affectionately known as "Sister Hitler" for her refusal to listen to any excuses, but there was always room for another person at her table.
She had a wide range of interests, such as the history of nursing (she was planning to do a PhD in that) and medieval re-enactments, where she was greatly appreciated on the field because play didn't have to stop if someone was injured. She boasted of being one of the few people in NSW who had experience in treating sword wounds, and could pull back a dislocation in seconds. She was a leader in the local Girls Brigade as well.
Many people with a serious illness can talk of nothing but their treatment and condition. Emma was just the opposite. Even in her last weeks in hospital her first question was always, "What's happening in the world?"
Our father complained he couldn't get a word in edgewise to ask her how she was when he rang because she was so busy lecturing him on his asthma.
Despite all, this year she was tutoring a friend's son through his first year of nursing. A few years ago she joined the Anglican Church, and this was a great comfort to her during her illness. One of the last people she saw was her minister. She died in her sleep about two hours later, on August 17.
Write in: Readers are invited to celebrate the life of a friend or relative in 400 words of affectionate anecdote and lively, informal stories, of the kind you might include in a personal eulogy or tell at a wake. Please include dates of birth and death and a copy of the death notice.
Send to Suzy Baldwin, GPO Box 506, Sydney 2001. Or by email (no attachments please):
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