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The tragic events in Lockhart in early September will remain with many of us for a very long time.  A family tragedy shocked families, a local community and indeed our community of Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD).

Two years ago while working as a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care/Coronary Care Unit and Emergency Departmentat Wagga Wagga Health Service, Kim had a serious car accident and was flown to Canberra. Her condition was critical and many thought she had small chance of survival.  She suffered serious life-threatening injuries, including a significant head injury.

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Kim fought on with tenacity, the love of her family, friends and colleagues, and obviously high quality medical care, and was back at work this year. She had recently been appointed Clinical Nurse Educator at Lockhart Multi-Purpose Service (MPS).

The morning after we heard about the tragedy, I travelled to Lockhart with the MLHD Executive Director of Nursing & Midwifery, Karen Cairney, to be with the staff and see if any resources were needed to support the grief-stricken team. The NSW Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Susan Pearce, made contact with the District and also contacted the Lockhart Health Service Manager, Karen McPherson, personally by phone to express her condolences.

The tragedy unfolded during the week of the 2014 NSW Rural Health and Research Congress in Dubbo where Kim’s contribution to rural health was recognised. Kim was described as an inspirational clinical leader who left many valuable footprints throughout MLHD: ‘Kim was a bright light to rural nursing, a dynamo full of positive enthusiasm who was a passionate dedicated nurse and mother’.

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The staff at Lockhart MPS continued to provide health care services,which is testament to their dedication.The staff placed black silk ribbons on the balustrades and documented on a white board that Kim was a fantastic daughter, sister, mother, wife and nurse. I asked them to write down some thoughts which I share with you:
  • Delightfully honest and entertaining
  • Tenacious
  • Dedicated
  • The nursing profession has lost a truly professional nurse who was a well-educated nurse who never lost sight of her empathy, compassion and sense of humour
  • A great team player
  • Funny and caring person who always was there to help you if you needed it
  • Kim would always have a big beaming smile, loved to help anyone before herself. Sadly missed xxx
  • Kim welcomed everyone like she had known them all her life, made you feel at home around her, she always had a story to tell and could make you laugh multiple times in a day, but most of all she could laugh at herself no matter how good, bad or ugly
  • Kim would arm herself with lollies and red bull for night duty. Many a night shift we would talk about decorating, building houses, gardening and her love of cooking. Kim was the best mother, nurse, friend you could imagine. Just think of the PERFECT NURSE that was her. Sadly missed, never forgotten
  • Kim was inspirational and determined in all she did. As a nurse in her recovery from a devastating motor vehicle accident and as a mother, friend and mentor.

As a Local Health District, we have responded to and are working with the community of Lockhart as the pain and grief will be palpable for some time to come. 

A memory of Kim vivid in my mind was at a recent workshop for clinicians in Wagga Wagga about patient-based care.  Kim stood up as we were discussing how to do this better and from her experience reminded us to talk to patients, touch patients and be kind to patients.  Those words stuck with me and many people on the day. The legacy of Kim’s words should be easy for us to translate into practice no matter who you are working with in health.

By Ken Hampson, Acting Director Operations, Murrumbidgee Local Health District

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