St John of God Berwick Hospital has been a crucial service for people in the local area for over 110 years, and with thanks to kind people in our community, will continue to provide exceptional care for many years to come.
One such person was Mary Helen Seath. Mary was born in Koo Wee Rup, VIC, to Scottish parents in 1930. She had an older brother Jimmy, and the family lived on a dairy farm until the floods of 1937, when they moved to Doveton. Shortly after, Mary’s father returned to Scotland, leaving Mary’s mother to raise her two children singlehandedly. Mary’s mother was resourceful, hard-working and scrupulous in her business dealings, and in 1954, they were able to build a family home on a 7.5 acre block in Hallam. This became Mary’s home and sanctuary until she died in 2019.
“Mary was a loving and doting daughter and sister, and as a friend, she was kind, generous, and loyal,” say Mary’s friends, Julianne Vermeend and Dianne Taylor.
“She devoted many years of her life to the care of her aging mother, who was 94 when she died. After that, Mary’s greatest joy was her garden.
“Mary and her mother created the garden together, perhaps it’s one of the reasons why it provided such solace for her in later years. It was both a beautiful and functional garden, with flowers, bulbs, succulents, shrubs, trees, as well as a thriving vegetable patch and prolifically fruiting trees. Even with debilitating arthritis, Mary would hand pick the fruit and vegetables, stew fruit to give to friends, make jam and eat her home-grown vegetables daily.
“She was a resilient, fiercely independent woman who lived a simple and mostly solitary life, and who was loved and respected by the handful of people she held dear.”
Before her passing, Mary’s mother had expressed a wish to leave a bequest to the local hospital – which Mary eventually did, in her mother’s honour.
“The Berwick and District Bush Nursing Hospital cared for Mary and her family throughout their lives, and Mary was incredibly grateful for the treatment they received over the years. She wanted that legacy to continue for her community, and to honour her mother’s wishes,” say Julianne and Dianne.
“We know how delighted Mary and her family would be that their generous donation will help so many patients at St John of God Berwick in the future.”
Mary’s kind gift has made it possible for St John of God Berwick Hospital to invest in state-of-the-art technology that will enable surgeons to undertake complex spinal surgery.
Mr David Oehme, a neurosurgeon at St John of God Berwick Hospital, says the new equipment means patients can access the very best care closer to home.
“Prior to the purchase of the 3-D Ziehm C-arm, Brainlab Navigation System and Mackey operating table, any patient requiring complex instrumented spine surgery, particularly fusion surgery, was transferred to major inner city hospitals for the surgery,” says Mr Oehme.
“Previously patients would spend time in hospital away from family. Now they can have their surgery close to home and their families, and still receive state-of-the art care. Patients can have their consultations, surgery and rehab all locally in Berwick at St John of God.”
Mr Oehme also says the equipment has ensured that complex surgeries can be performed more safely and with greater precision.
“This technology allows for greater safety of instrumentation of the spine. Our first surgery
was like a dream. The screws were flawless. The patient coped very well and overall the equipment worked perfectly,” Mr Oehme says.
“The new equipment brings St John of God Berwick Hospital into line with other major inner city hospitals with having state-of-the-art spinal neuronavigation equipment, and has upskilled our nursing staff who are now proficient in using spinal instrumentation and neuronavigation instruments.”
Mr Oehme expressed his gratitude on behalf of patients and their families for the generosity that has allowed the hospital to invest in the cutting-edge equipment.
“It has made a major difference to patients in the wider Berwick community who can now access complex spine surgery safely with state-of-the-art neuronavigation equipment. This has been appreciated already by many patients and their families.”
Image: The immense kindness of the late Mary Helen Seath (pictured) has allowed her local hospital to invest in ground-breaking new neurosurgery equipment.