This is another event in the 70s that very much affected our lives, especially my mum's life.
While living in Mosman Park I received a telephone call from my half-brother, Len, to say he'd received a call from Royal Perth Hospital to say mum had been seriously injured. We hot footed it to the hospital and found her unconscious in the emergency ward. It seemed it could be touch and go and I talked to her not knowing if she could hear me or not but hoping with all my heart she knew I was there. (Len was the only other Ruston in the telephone book apart from mum and that is why he received the call from the hospital).
Mum was in hospital for SEVEN months, many of those months spent in the Rehabilitation Hospital in Shenton Park. At the time this happened Mum was (I think) 72 and the Director of the Citizen's Advice Bureau which she had first begun in a tiny office in Boans Store some years earlier. As mum had never driven and didn't own a car she used taxies to and from work each day. She lived in North Perth which was only a few miles from the city so not too expensive (at least not back in 1970).
On this particular June afternoon taxis were at a premium in the city and (although I think it was not actually legal) mum agreed to share a taxi with two people going to Leederville, if she could be taken home first. Then followed a series of events with a calamatous outcome.
When the taxi arrived a few doors from mum's house in Fitzgerald Street the taxi driver asked her if she would mind if he turned left into Farmer Street so he could head straight to Leederville. Although mum wasn't at all that happy about the idea, as the driver should have taken her to the front of her house, she agreed as she didn't want to be difficult. My goodness, if only she had insisted he drop her at her front door which she would have been within her rights to do.
This now meant mum had to walk about 15 metres and then cross over Fitgerald Street to her house. As she went to cross a car heading north up the road stopped and waved her to cross over. As she did so another car, also heading north, stupidly passed the stopped car swerving on to the wrong side of the road and hit mum square on. Poor old mum apparently flew into the air landing extremely heavily on the road. Her next door neighbour, Mrs Michael (a doctor's wife) heard the commotion and when she ran out and saw mum lying on the road she thought the worst. She told me afterwards that she honestly thought my mum was dead.
The man who was driving rather fast and swerved around the stopped car had just collected his wife and new baby from the hospital . He was obviously anxious to get them home. Perhaps the baby was crying and he was concerned. Nobody knows but the manouvre he made was one that very few would think of doing normally, at least without slowing down to see why the other car had stopped and if the way were clear. It certainly meant he was delayed in getting his wife and baby home and I am sure this was on his mind for many years after the 'accident'.
It seems mum received a fractured skull, a half inch split in her brain (the fluid that surrounds the brain had drained out through her ear), fractured ribs, a leg broken in two places and, worst of all, a shattered right hip. After the leg was set (I still have, as a memento, the steel rod that went through that leg) she was placed in a ward and we were then able to see her the next day. Her memory seemed to have been impaired and, although she appeared to know who we were, she was very vague. We only stayed for a few minutes and promised to be back the next day.
We visited her each day and realised that she was, somehow, going to pull through but the orthopaedic surgeon rang me and told me there was little hope that mum would ever walk again. He said she was indeed fortunate to still be alive. He made three attempts to fix the shattered hip but there was nothing they could do to set it nor could it be replaced because the pieces that remained were too small. These injuries would have been life threatening for a younger person but to a woman of 72 one could expect them to be fatal. What always saddened me was, only a few weeks prior to this incident, my mother was riding Karen's bicycle up and down outside our house in Boundary Road just to show she still could. She was still a very active woman even with a diphtheric heart she'd had since a bout of diphtheria when she was 15 in England.
Several years prior to this accident a doctor (not mum's regular GP) had told her if she didn't give up work....she should not even use a broom to sweep the floor....he couldn't vouch she would live much longer. She had an irregular heartbeat (all doctors picked that up upon examination) but whatever it was, this stubborn lady had decided it was not going to kill her.
After several weeks mum was transferred to Shenton Park for rehabilitation. While there she developed thrombosis in her leg which necessitated administering blood thinners. They of course monitored this treatment and then found her blood had become too thin so more medication to reverse that. She eventually asked to have her portable typewriter brought to the hospital and she continued with some of her responsibilites but alas, she was never again to return to the position of Director of the CAB which I think was a real heartbreak to her as it had always been her 'baby'. This is mum at her desk at the Citizen's Advice Bureau office in Murray Street, Perth.
The man who was driving the car that hit mum actually visited her in the rehab hospital which I thought rather splendid of him. It must have been very embarrassing for him to do so but I think mum appreciated the visit and his very sincere apology. She said he was very upset and she could tell how sincere he was when he said "I am so sorry".
She followed all instructions at the Rehab Hospital and was progressed well. She was fortunate to have a private room as she could then get on with some typing and other work she insisted on doing.
Prior to mum's accident we had arranged for our trip to Carnarvon and she of course insisted we go as planned. We set out and sent postcards etc from various destinations which unfortunately took ages to reach mum and I felt from what she said when we arrived home, she felt we had neglected her. I think a couple of items arrived in the mail after our return home but of course we had been visiting her so regularly she must have missed us more than we realised she would.
Eventually mum confounded all the medicos and was up and walking with the help of crutches to begin with and then two walking sticks (I still have one of those sticks and use it daily. The other was lent to someone in the family and was lost somewhere). After some years her right leg became much shorter than her good leg and she had to have the heels of her shoes built up a few inches. I think she was in much more pain than she would let on about but 'cracked hardy' most of the time. She was certainly a very stoical person in more ways then one.
Mum received dozens of get well cards as well as letters and telegrams as she was so well known in Perth and I sat and pasted them all in a scrap book and took them to her in the hospital and she was so delighted to be able to look at them all in that way. She also decided she could not return home to the house in Fitzgerald Street and began looking for a simpler place she could move around in easily.
A new duplex in Hertha Place, Innaloo was on the market and mum decided this would do her very nicely. The house in Fitzgerald Street was sold and we moved mum into her new home with the help of family and some young friends of ours. She made the place very comfortable and seemed happy there for some time. This is the duplex a few weeks after mum moved in. Phil and I had planted a lawn for her and there were plants in a garden bed by the verandah and several beginning to grow quite well along the fenceline.
Mum was quite comfortable here until she began to think about becoming a burden on us because of her disabilities. She then chose to enter a retirement village in Joondanna. She was, in fact, one of the very first to live there. She had a corner downstairs unit consisting of a bedroom, living/dining room with a kitchen and a bathroom. She had a box made to raise her recliner/rocker off the ground so she could stand up more easily and used several 'helpers' (clickers and hooks on sticks) to pick up items from the floor or from high up and even to help her put her stockings on as it was very awkward for her to bend down. She used one stick when at home but always used the two whenever she went into the city.
With her love of gardening it was not too long before mum had a beautiful garden growing in the small plot outside her unit as well as several containers of cimbidium orchids. It never fails to amaze me when I look at this photograph, the variety of plants and flowers she managed to fit into this tiny area. When the sweet peas were in bloom I would often be given a bunch to take home with me.
No matter what the problem was, mum never allowed it to get her down for too long and just got on with life.
There is more to mum's story but I may continue that in a later blog as she went on to do more social work, became a Justice of the Peace and received the MBE and the Queen's Silver Jubilee medal as well.