Life of sac­ri­fice to the ill and el­derly

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By ROY BURKE

Helen MacKen­zie was top flight in her nurs­ing ca­reer.

In younger days she was a theatre su­per­vi­sor at Auck­land’s Green­lane Hos­pi­tal, work­ing with in­ter­na­tion­ally known sur­geons Sir Brian Bar­rett Boyes and Sir Dou­glas Robb.

About 1964 she bought the lease of Mata­mata’s Brae­side Hos­pi­tal.

Very ca­reer fo­cused, she was mar­ried to nurs­ing, al­though she en­joyed male com­pany.

In re­tire­ment from 1999, she was a ac­tive per­son and took up line danc­ing.

Till her age­ing mother’s death, she cared for her in her Mata­mata home ad­join­ing Brae­side Hos­pi­tal.

She was ded­i­cated poo­dle, Beau.

In Novem­ber 1972 she was in­vested as an as­so­ciate of the Royal Red Cross for ex­cep­tional de­vo­tion and com­pe­tency in ac­tual nurs­ing du­ties. Helen had been a mem­ber of the New Zealand Army Nurs­ing Corps from 1958 to 1968. She was es­sen­tially forth­right and prac­ti­cal.

She was deeply in­volved with the bet­ter­ment of Mata­mata and do­nated suf­fi­cient money to plant 7000 daf­fodils in Cen­ten­nial Drive.

She looked at what was needed and reached into her own pocket. Peo­ple will al­ways be re­minded of Helen at daf­fodil time.

Helen died peace­fully at Ro­torua Hos­pi­tal on Fri­day April 12, 2013, aged 91.

She had re­cently re­turned from a re­union trip to Can­ter­bury, stayed for a few days with a niece in Taupo, then be­came ill and was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal.

Un­til then she was still driv­ing her Audi car (she had traded in an ear­lier model three years be­fore). She was de­scribed as an el­e­gant, spe­cial per­son. She was the daugh­ter of Annabella and Wil­liam MacKen­zie, the fourth of nine chil­dren.

She was ed­u­cated at Mt Mess­ing School, South Can­ter­bury, one of 24 pupils, then Ti­maru Girls’ High School.

Helen trained in nurs­ing at Ti­maru Hos­pi­tal, grad­u­at­ing in 1944. She did tu­ber­cu­lo­sis train­ing at Tal­bot Hos­pi­tal, Ti­maru and was a dis­trict nurse in Oa­maru for five years.

She did gen­eral nurs­ing in Canada from 1952 to 1955 and worked in the United King­dom from 1955 to 1957, trav­elled briefly to New Zealand then back to Canada as theatre nurse at Joseph Brandt Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal in Burlington, On­tario.

Helen re­turned to New Zealand as head theatre nurse and theatre su­per­vi­sor in the new heart sur­gi­cal unit at Green­lane Hos­pi­tal.

Dr Neil Al­gar, for­mer Mata­mata mayor and one of five or six GPs serv­ing the dis­trict, was a good friend. He re­mem­bers her in those years. ‘‘We worked pretty har­mo­niously.’’ Brae­side was a small hos­pi­tal, though not a cot­tage hos­pi­tal.

‘‘Brae­side had the small­est op­er­at­ing room I’ve ever worked in,’’ Dr Al­gar said.

She took over the job of run­ning and own­ing a hos­pi­tal as a busi­ness and work­ing in it as a nurse – not un­com­mon years ago. There were long hours and hard work. Over the years the roles of the hos­pi­tal changed and she coped with that. It be­came more or less a geri­atric hos­pi­tal. Eileen Weal was one of Helen’s staff. She de­scribes her­self as ‘‘one of the priv­i­leged ones’’ and her story starts with a tele­phone call many years ago from Helen.

‘‘I be­lieve that you have done some nurs­ing. Would you be in­ter­ested in nurs­ing again?’’


to her white minia­ture

Eileen af­firmed. Helen: ‘‘Can you start to­mor­row?’’

And thus be­gan a 25-year work­ing re­la­tion­ship. That was the way many started.

‘‘She was well re­spected by all the doc­tors. We be­came an ex­tended fam­ily work­ing for the good of our res­i­dents. It was very spe­cial,’’ Eileen said.

Rest in peace: Helen MacKen­zie pic­tured here in 2011 with her beloved poo­dle Beau.

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