The Ballarat Independent.

A Christmas Carol 3

Author: Melissa Watts Categories: Issues, Stories, Health You are in:Home > Stories > Issues

A Christmas Carol

My 2012 began in grand Dickensian fashion. I, Scrooge-like, trundled towards the end of 2011 with a bleak outlook. While I was not as miserable as Dickens’ Scrooge, I was teeth grittingly angry that my new car (owned for less than 30 days) had been severely damaged in the Christmas day storms and my insurance company was proving to be as contactable as the Loch Ness Monster. While I would not typically be bothered by car issues, at 5 months pregnant my plan for summer had not been to deal with car repairs, or perhaps searching for a new car.

But it was New Year’s Eve which saw me visited by the ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future and had me metaphorically peering through the window of what my life could have been.

My morning began in Cape Patterson, crawling out of a tent, impressed that my pregnant frame had successfully lasted the night on the camp mattress. My partner left with some mates to go surfing, and on recollection we didn’t bother to say goodbye to each other. By the 9.30pm fireworks I was standing on a balcony in my mother-in-law’s house, baby kicking wildly with the bursts of each glow, and wondering about my partner who was down the road in The Alfred hospital with a broken back. That morning he had come off his surfboard. He broke his back in 3 places and was airlifted to Melbourne. It was a matter of centremeters which saved his neck, brain and spinal cord from damage. Fortunately he was surfing with friends who could pull him from the water and run into town to call an ambulance. In the days since I have gone through Scrooge’s transformation, thankful for what I have. 

The accident has also made me think about other people, in particular nurses, paramedics and emergency service staff. My time in the emergency rooms and trauma wards of the hospital reminded me of a truth I knew, but had forgotten. It’s easy to forget that around us there are so many people who work so quietly at thankless jobs. But the work they do is immeasurable. It’s not until you witness or experience it firsthand that you remember just how important it is. Nurses, paramedics and emergency services are worth their weight in gold. It is easy to imagine that the Ghost of Christmas Future might show that if these workers continue in tough conditions we might soon struggle to find the right type of people to fill these roles. I wish them luck in their industrial action to lower nurse-patient ratios and increase their pay.

The current nurse-patient ratios saw me feeding and bathing my partner. As his accident occurred on New Year’s Eve there were several staff members on holidays so no one could make his brace. He spent 3 days lying on the bed looking at the roof, unable to sit up, wash or feed himself. I made myself available at the hospital every morning for his breakfast and stayed to serve him his evening meal. The nurses did a wonderful job getting to all their patients, but my assistance made a real difference to them. They were appreciative of my efforts which allowed them more time to care for the several other patients that they were responsible for. I am also grateful that the accident occurred in Australia. It meant that we had timely access to road ambulance, air ambulance, fully equipped emergency rooms and trauma units. We don’t have private health insurance, but in such an emergency I can’t see that that would change anything. The medical care that was provided was exemplar.

Of course, the accident taught me to be thankful for so many things especially good health and fantastic friends and family. I realise now just how important it is to look on these positives rather than focus on what might have been.

I’m pleased to report that my partner is recovering well, and the car…well that’s another post.



Sharon Hall

Thank you so much for this. We know that the public understand what we are trying to do, and that they support us. I hope that between us all we can make the Government understand that you cannot put a monetary value on peoples health and their lives.


Ask voters to stop putting peoples health at risk. Can a govt put it to the voters that there is a blank cheque without alarm? I think not. So I ask everyone and voters, when govts spend on health, do not talk of cost blowouts etc.


I was lucky enough to read your story, complete with lump in throat and tear in eye, thanks to a Facebook friend. Many of us need reminding that the simple pleasures we take for granted each day are gifts to be cherished, no matter how small.