Heartache for Heathcote couple of 53 years

SHORTFALLS in the health system are causing heartbreak for Mick Nightingale and his wife Peggy.

The couple, who are both in their 70s, have been married for 53 years and have called Heathcote home for more than 25 years.

But late last year Mrs Nightingale had a massive heart attack and spent almost a month in intensive care at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne.

She also suffered renal failure, is now dependant on dialysis and has spent more than five months in hospital in Bendigo.

Yesterday, Mrs Nightingale, who needs full-time care, moved into a Bendigo nursing home.

There’s a waiting list for the Heathcote nursing home and her family has been told there’s no dialysis equipment at the local hospital, effectively cementing her future in Bendigo and separating her from her husband.

Mr Nightingale relies on his children to drive him from Heathcote to Bendigo for visits.

Their children live in Melbourne and Gippsland so the couple will only be reunited about twice a week, making every moment spent together even more precious.

The Nightingales’ son Rod acknowledges it is probably too late for his parents, but hopes that by telling their story they can publicise the need for dialysis equipment in Heathcote and increased bed capacity at the town’s nursing home.

“We’re pretty realistic in the sense that we understand that this publicity may not help them in the short term,” he said.

“But we want to highlight the plight of the Heathcote area to try and get the hospital to actually put in a dialysis unit.

“It’s as simple as that.

“We hope what we are doing now encourages other people to come out of the woodwork, put their hand up and say, ‘Look, I go to Bendigo or I go to Kyneton for dialysis, but I’m not on your numbers’.

“We want to get them to contact the Heathcote hospital and just let them know because I think that there are a lot more people that need it than what’s actually in the system.”

Rod said the stress of the situation had been very hard on his family.

“Dad’s got a situation where he can’t drive very far,” he said.

“He’s only allowed to drive through the town of Heathcote, so basically they’ve been separated.

“They’ve had 53 years of marriage and this has basically torn them apart.

“She’s going into a really nice nursing home in Bendigo… but they would dearly love to be together and it looks like that’s not going to be the case.

“We’re going to be doing the trips from Melbourne, Gippsland to Heathcote to pick up dad to come and visit mum and so on.”

Rod’s sister Linda Swanson recently wrote to Minister of Health David Davis and detailed their parents’ plight.

“Based on what we have learnt and had to go through in recent weeks, we have two very serious health issues in the Heathcote area – the urgent need for a dialysis machine at Heathcote hospital and increased bed capacity at the Heathcote nursing home,” she wrote.

“I ask that the issues in the points above are addressed with those who can make a difference – with no passing the buck.

“I acknowledge that the situation that my mum and dad are in may not be resolved before either of them pass away, but for the future of Heathcote and its older residents, something needs to progress before other families are put in a similar position to ours.”

Michael and Peggy Nightingale from Heathcote. Picture: Brendan McCarthy

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