Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston. (pp 202-205)
"SUDDEN ACCIDENT CAUSES CONFUSION
As usual, in May 1969, I attended the annual meeting of the Australian Council of Social Service in the Eastern States and left Mrs Marge Schonell in charge of the office and Mrs Edna Maloney in charge of the C.A.B., both of whom had been with me as voluntary helpers for a considerable time and were entirely capable and reliable
The day following my return was a public holiday and Mrs Schonell rang me and suggested that it would be a good time to go into the office while everything was quiet, and she would be able to tell me all that had transpired while I was away.
I was happy to agree to her suggestion and, after we had caught up with everything, we decided to catch a taxi outside Boans store so that I could drop her in Bulwer Street where she had parked her car, and then continue home. Being a holiday, taxis in town were few and far between, and our driver asked if we would be prepared to share with two men who were going in the same direction. We agreed, and that was my undoing.
It appears that another car came along and passed the standing car at high speed, catching me and throwing me a long way up the road. At first it was thought to be dead but apparently there was a faint pulse, an ambulance was called and one of my neighbours kindly volunteered to go in to the hospital with me. I was unconscious for a long time and had multiple broken bones and injuries including a cracked skull. In all it took me nine months to recover and I still have disabilities as a result of this accident."
(This was the first time in many years that a taxi had not dropped mum right outside her front gate. At that time Fitzgerald Street was a quite narrow road and the second car would have had to swerve onto the wrong side of the road to pass the stationary car. If only the first car hadn't stopped as it did. I guess our lives are full of 'ifs' aren't they but in this case 'if only? The next door neighbour was Mrs May Michael. She was the wife of a medical missionary and I feel would have had experience in nursing. She was a lovely person and she and mum, in later years, moved into the same retirement village. I was so thankful to her for accompanying mum to Royal Perth Hospital in the ambulance.)
"Several weeks after this happened and I was still in hospital a young Italian man came to visit me and said it was he who had knocked me down and admitted that he should not have passed a standing car at such speed. It appeared he had been in a hurry to get home with his wife who had just left hospital with a new baby, and he had left other children at home on their own. He said he feared I would die and that he would he had up for manslaughter, so it was a great relief to him to know that I had recovered. All his hurry was for nothing and he must have been delayed for hours before he was able to take his wife and new baby home. (I don't want to sound hard but I always felt the young man was more concerned about his own neck than what had happened to mum as a result of his carelessness).
At the office emergency arrangements had to be made right away. Miss Pat Thomas was made Director of the C.A.B. pro tem; P.E.H.S. was left in charge of the Supervisor, Miss P. Dodd under the direction of the Board of Management, and Mrs Phil Robertson carried on in charge of C.H.A.P.S.
My daughter Margaret (Peg) and her husband Phil were wonderful. They took over the running of my home and *flats; arranged for accounts to be paid and visited me regularly in hospital. The whole thing must have disrupted their own lives, and nothing I could do for them would ever replay all they did for me at that time.
A very large number of cards. telegrams and letters arrived for me immediately after the accident, and Peg kindly put them into an album for me so that I could see them if and when I regained consciousness and was able to read them. I still browse through them occasionally, and think how wonderful it was that I had so many friends who cared.
My C.A.B. voluntary workers carried on as usual, being experienced and capable. Mrs Phil Robertson managed C.H.A.P.S. but the Board of Management of P.E.H.S. was not happy. When I was given a single room at Shenton Park rehabilitation Hospital they met for informal meetings my my bedside. It appeared that, while I was in hospital, Dr Colin Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Management, became worried about the service and without reference to other Board members, asked the Council of Social Service to take over the running of P.E.H.S., which was, of course, quite illegal, as it was an independent body and paid up financial member of C.O.S.S., added to which the Council constitution does not allow it to run a welfare service. It appeared that C.O.S.S. had taken over P.E.H.S. funds, and Mrs Stephenson and the Supervisor, Miss Dodd, were in charge.
Dr Anderson came into see me and I explained to him that the action taken was out of order. The Matron of Shenton Park Hospital (then Matron Denny) very kindly permitted the Board to hold meetings in in the hospital library in the evening and I was taken along there in a wheelchair.
I had sent letters of resignation to all the various services, but Mrs Meadowcroft, Deputy Chairman of P.E.H.S. did not open my letter as she surmised its contents. I was therefore still the Director and able to speak at meetings.
After discussion it was agreed as it was near to Christmas, that the organisation would close down over the holiday period after fulfilling outstanding obligations as far as possible. The Supervisor was to be asked to give a full list of outstanding applicants, as well as housekeepers available and bookings made.
It was further agreed that the Board would re-open it in a short time, taking back the funds and management from C.O.S.S.. They asked me to resume as Director.
*Mum had kept the main part of her house for her own use, let out the two very large front rooms as a flatette and rented a smaller area at the back of her house. They all shared the bathroom but had their own small kitchens.
I will never forget the evening when brother Len rang me to say he'd had a call from RPH to say mum had been injured. We four were about to leave to go to the drive-in pictures so it was fortunate we were still at home. We hot-footed it into Perth and when we arrived at Emergency I was allowed in to see my mum. She was lying on a gurney and I truly thought she was dead. She was unconscious but I spoke to her but as I needed her to know I was there. She looked terrible and it was such a shock to see this woman who was always such a fighter just lying there. It was a dreadful few weeks before we knew what the final outcome of this 'accident' would be.
As I said a the beginning of this episode you can't keep a determined woman down. I still feel amazed, thirty years later, at how mum found the fortitude to continue on as she did and there are still more outstanding achievements to come. I will continue with the aftermath of this upheavel in future 'episodes' about mum's convalescence and where she goes from there.