| Media Release
Gift of honour in return for the gift of life
1 December 2009
She spent over a month in Intensive Care, including three weeks on life support, being ventilated through a tracheostomy. Their young daughter turned three and Emma was too ill to celebrate her birthday.
A piece of art that conveys more than words ever could, now hangs in the Intensive Care Department at The Royal Melbourne Hospital. This symbol of gratitude is also a reminder to the ICU staff of what they achieved by saving a young New Zealand mother’s life.
The artwork is a miniature Korowai – a Maori cloak traditionally worn by great leaders and healers with utmost honour, dignity and strength. It sits above a Greenstone, the most precious treasure someone from Aotearoa (the Land of the Long White Cloud) can give, carved with a traditional unfurling fern leaf motif. The fern, a symbol of New Zealand, represents new life and new beginnings.
And a new beginning is what the ICU team gave Emma Hounsell, a paediatric nephrologist, her husband Grant and their baby daughter.
In March 2009 Emma was diagnosed with leukaemia and was admitted to The Royal Melbourne Hospital to start her chemotherapy.
A catastrophic reaction to the treatment caused life-threatening lung damage, bleeding in her brain and bleeding behind both her eyes that has left her with severely impaired vision in her right eye.
“I was meant to be doing my fellowship at the Royal Children’s but I decided I liked the Royal Melbourne more,” she joked.
From left: New Zealand Consul-General, His Excellency Robert Hole; Emma Hounsell; Grant Hounsell; Assoc Prof Nerina Harley, Director of Intensive Care;
Michelle Spence, Nurse Unit Manager Intensive Care.
“I came about as close to dying as you could possibly get,” Emma said, with Grant adding that at one point he had been called in to say goodbye.
“But we beat the odds,” he said.
Even though Emma was not expected to survive the team in RMH ICU never gave up.
Emma was more than just a patient and they treated her and her family with the utmost care and compassion.
“The nurses who looked after me were amazing,” Emma said. “They read magazines to me, washed my head even when I had no hair, and rubbed cream into my hands and feet.”
The turning point in Emma’s recovery came when the nurses went to the trouble of taking her for a trip outside, despite all the tubes, lines and equipment.
“They took me to Grattan Street to see the sunshine. They gave me a reason to live,” Emma said.
Nearly 10 months later, Emma is getting ready to return to New Zealand.
“When I leave here, I will be leaving a large part of me behind,” Emma said.
Media contact: Catherine Lander, Melbourne Health Public Affairs 0419 878 925