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The Other Side of Grief


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My name is Trudi McLeod I am an Emergency Medical Dispatcher, my husband is Malcolm McLeod MICA Paramedic.  While it has the potential to be an area of conflict, our relationship give us a unique insight into each others work. It affords us the opportunities discuss the day’s events with someone who identifies with our job.

While many jobs impact on us due to the relevance in our own lives, there is a distance that allows us to continue to do the jobs we do.

On January 18th 2007 that distance was shattered, our personal and professional lives collided in what must be every dispatcher and paramedic’s nightmare.

Since I was already working, Mal had picked up a recall shift running on the Coldstream truck. A call came in for a 31 yr old male, suspected Cardiac arrest. Yarra Junction and Coldstream crews were dispatched.  The call was for my son Micheal.   Despite the best effort of the crews Micheal died at the scene.

Working in our chosen professions, we are always aware of a possibility that we may be called or sent to a family member.  It is something you don’t dwell on and when it did actually happen, I never believed Micheal would die.

To the Yarra Junction crew Margo McIntyre and Rick Mitchell, thank you for all you did on that day.  To know what had gone in the time before I arrived, to find Micheal resting peaceful did much to ease my heart. Thank you.

To Rebecca Jones, many thanks for making Coldstream full MICA on that day.

To Gary Robertson and Rene Bouman, thank you for your support throughout that morning.  May you never have to live through that experience again.

To Peter Godwin, thank you for making excellent time from home and for being there when I finally arrived. To the Peer Support Group and those associated with Victorian Ambulance Crisis Care Service, many thanks for your hours and hours of support and direction.

Finally to my husband. I have heard much of over the past years of your expertise as a MICA officer, the legend of Mal McLeod.   I have now been privileged to witness the strengths and depths of the man. Thank you.


*This letter was sent to the CEO of Metropolitan Ambulance.  It went in some way to thank those who were with MIcheal that day. 

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I have been told countless times that something good will happen from the results of my daughter’s death...but what? Why? I just recently met a lady on vacation that stopped me after learning of my daughter’s death from leukemia.  She shared with me the website for the foundation they now have in their daughter’s name.  The foundation is meant to benefit those who suffer financial distress after cancer has affected their lives.  From as little as helping with groceries or helping with uncovered medical expenses...I pondered the whole way home on my flight about what if anything I could do that would make my daughters death end on a positive note...

I think that is the key...finding a reason to keep moving on.  Whether it be volunteering with a cause (heart disease, cancer, MAD, etc.) and helping find ways to fight for a cure, or get new laws passed.  I know that I will continue to raise money for blood cancer research, continue giving pints of blood so people who need it can have it available, continue getting the word out about the importance of every person registering on the National blood donor list, and continue supporting all grieving parents who are in my same boat. 

To me...this is my other side of grief.  I might not know how yet I will make a difference but my wish is that someday (even if its 20 years from now) I WILL, and it will make all this pain worth it.

Thanks for listening.  The picture is of my team "Shell Bells" for the Light the Night walk benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Suzanne (Michelle's Mom)

She's gone but never forgotten!


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   I lost my son to a rare childhood cancer but the story is so much more than even about him. There are angels on this Earth and many of them are the people who cared for my son for the past three years. Words cannot adequately express how much love and appreciation I feel for them and everything that they did for us.

He was treated by a pediatric oncology team . . who made it a point to call us . . if I had a question at 2am in the morning . . someone was there for me. There was not one step during this rotten journey that we did not have the support of all the medical professionals at our disposal. And, the compassion and dignity and professionalism they all exhibited . . gave us such peace about all the decisions that we made.

I could literally wax on about all these people . . the nurses, the doctors, the staff, the childrens cancer clinic, the childrens hospital, surgical staff . . the social workers . . but I won't . . you get the picture. But I would like to mention the last month of my sons life and the outstanding care we again received.

My son was not one to complain . . apparently even when he was dying . . he had an appointment to see his oncologist for that pesky increasing back pain about a week after New Years. By the time we reached his oncologist (a two hour drive for us) my son was in acute respiratory distress (he just hadn't mentioned to me how lousy he felt at the time). The clinic sprung into action . . his two primary care nurses were there for him immediately, his doctor rushed into the office, the staff and social workers whom we all knew were absolutely stunning in their calmness and ability to handle the situation. When we left for the hospital all of them hugged me and I heard many, "I love you's". They are just such special people. And, the support did not end there. The  doctors and the nursing staff at our children's hospital were also there for us at every step of the way . . so patient .  .so kind . . so strong. I knew they were hurting too to see a kid they had known for three years struggling so much to live.

 We had about four or five very special nurses who tended to Nate through those years . . and one of them was the nurse in charge of the unit. When it became apparent how sick Nathan was there was talk about sending him immediately to the Intensive Care Unit. We knew that this was not what we wanted . . Nathan quickly signed his Advanced Directive to prevent this from happening. For those of you who might not understand . . Nathan had advanced cancer . . he had intense pain that was increasing in his back and he was in respiratory distress. Going to the ICU would have meant that if he stopped breathing they would required to resuscitate him which is not an easy procedure . . it can be violent . . hitting or compressing a patients chest . . and if he survived that . . he would have been in ever increasing pain . . in the end  it would not have been beneficial to his life at all and would have increased his suffering. Too, the ICU wanted to place a tube down his throat to help him breath .. again . . this would only prolong what was happening and not save his life. The cancer was killing him and nothing that an ICU offered could stop that progession.  This was one of the hardest decisions that we made . . we knew and he knew he could die at anytime. But, what made the decision to not go to the ICU possible was the total support of the childrens floor nursing staff. During their meeting about patients every single one of them volunteered to care for Nathan . . no matter what happened . . they wanted to keep him on the floor close to them and not send him to a place he didn't know anyone. And, keep him they did . . they moved him in a large, comfortable room right across from their station. We had round the clock care, encouragement, support, and love. I recall one young nurse practically attacking one of the resident doctors because he went into our room before checking with her first. They were so protective of us. I can barely type this because it overwhelms me how much support they gave. I love them so much.

I remember that one of our special nurses, Jen, didn't even want us to go home on hospice because she didn't think they could take care of him well enough. It was so, so hard to make that decision because we had such love and excellent care. But, as it turned out . . we did not have anything to fear in that regard either. Susan, was our hospice nurse . . totally outstanding . .she was available to us whenever we called. The social worker and the chaplain . . all local people . . who turned out to be our friends. The night Nate died we called Susan and the chaplain (my friend, Laura) who both came immediately. Laura's son was my sons best friend (that is also a whole other story about true friendship). Laura was the calm in the midst of that particular storm . . she helped us so much . . and than I realized just how much she was hurting too. You see, Nathan and her son were best friends and grew up together. He spent days and weeks at her house. But she was professional and caring . . her guidance impeccable. She officiated at my son's service and her son also spoke. Since Nathans death they have all kept in contact with us. Susan even called yesterday to check on how we were.

I do not know how to repay these people for what they did for us . . no words . . they were all Nathan's angels . . my angels . . our angels . . and they continue to be. Most of them came to Nathan's Celebration of Life . . even his doctor . . who I could not stop hugging.

Someday I hope to give back too . . but I do not know how . .. I am hoping that as time goes by that this will come to me. We have already encouraged or made donations in Nate's memory to the Childrens Cancer clinic and to Make a Wish foundation . . but I would love to honor these special people who took such good care of us during a most horrific journey.

I love them all and I say that with tears in my eyes . . for not all tears are tears of sorrow.

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Thankyou all so much for sharing.  I really needed to find another side to what seemed to be a single focus thing.

That morning, Mike died at his home.  Police were called primarily due to a death at home unexpected.  I was struck by the fact that they were so young.....yet so supportive.  They had to explain that Mike was waiting for the Coroner to arrive before he could be moved.  They ensured I had my time with Mike uninterrupted.

Later that day, I wanted to know if Mike had made it to the Coroner.  The staff there showed such compassion and empathy.  I was still talking as if Mike had just taken a trip into town.  "I was wondering if Micheal Shane Hendrie was with you' I heard myself say.........The response truly comforting.  "Yes, Micheal arrived here around 3pm.  He's going to be with us for a couple of days.  If there is anything you need or want to know please call me....." She used his name, not a number.  I was given an direct number to a real person".  

Many would say these people, nurses, carers, doctors, police, paramedics etc care because its part of their job.  I believe most go beyond their job descriptions.....they take it to the next level and in doing so in some way honour our children.



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I also went through the experience of wonderful people caring for our son, Mike, as he went through those last 17 months.  Nothing was inaccessible...if it was needed, it was there, gotten, given.   Like the nurses Kalimac described, the doctors and nurses at Brigham and Women's in Boston were more than outstanding...they took care of him like he was their own.  Unfortunately, Mike's first surgery, which was at another hospital in another city, was a disaster...the nurses just did not seem to be knowledgable of this particular illness (Glioblasatoma, Grade IV brain tumor), although they certainly had ICU experience.  But, of course, they were following the orders of the doctor, who it turned out was just not up to admitting that this was beyond his expertise, and had we not insisted that Mike be transferred to Boston as soon as he showed decline after that first surgery, we would have lost him that week.  His brain was swelling within his skull, and even though the doctor had ordered Mike to be given additional steroids that night to slow down the swelling, the nurse on duty did not see to it that it was started, and as a result, in the morning, Mike was in a coma.   Later the special care nurse in the neurologic oncology unit in Boston told us that if the swelling had been allowed to continue, his brain would have essentially imploded and he would have died immediately.  

When Mike first began to show signs of decline after that first surgery, the dr. told us that "we've done all that can be done.  there's nothing more to do."  He SHOULD have said "we've done all WE can do, and you need to take him to a treatment center."  However, he didn't; he just told us that "he can't live like this" and then the dr walked out of the room.    Had I not had the good fortune of running into a close friend of mine that day, who also was a nurse and worked at the hospital, and was advised by her that we needed to get Mike out of that hospital and to Boston, I don't know what would have happened.  (It turned out that there were other things going on at the hospital, as well, as far as inadequate care, etc., and my friend wound up turning in her resignation shortly after this.)   We called an emergency meeting of the patient advocate team at the hospital (they were assembled within 45 minutes!), and filed a complaint about the doctor.  While all of this was going on, they were arranging for the transfer.  It took almost 48 hours to complete the transfer, and Mike was in the coma for 46 of those hours....I cannot tell you how frightening that was...we truly didn't know if he would even make to Boston.  To add to the lack of care, when Mike came out of the coma, he had a small seizure, but the nurse on duty didn't report it, so he never got the IV medicine he was supposed to get to control it.  We had walked into his room and he told us of the seizure, and as soon as the on-duty dr heard about it, he ordered the IV medicine be given immediately.  Meantime, he told us that it had not been entered into the book by the nurse that Mike had had the seizure.   

Once we got to Boston, it was just another world totally...caring, competent, over-the-limit care given to Mike as they prepared him for the second surgery to correct what wasn't done in the first surgery, due to the doctor's lack of experience with tomographical brain surgery (I think that is what it was called---Mike had to be awake during the first 30 minutes so they could ask him questions as they mapped his brain). 

The staff of wonderful people at the hospital in Boston were just so very far above any mere words that I could use to describe them.  Hugs from nurses, doctors with tears in their eyes as they reviewed what all Mike had been through...on the first night that Mike was there, there was not an on-call special duty nurse available for one-on-one care, and the doctor said he would sit with Mike until one arrived...which they said may not happen until early the next morning... And stay he did, right there..unfortunately, he was called into an emergency, but the nurses brought Mike's bed to the front of the nursing station and one of them was with him at all times until the special duty nurse arrived. 

It is always so helpful when you know you have good care, and the team caring for your loved one is a caring, competent group of people.  Mike's care was out of our hands, but once we got to Boston, we knew he was getting the best of the best.  The day they got the final lab results on the type of tumor, they called a conference of other doctors, radiology people, chemo people, etc., and for an entire day they discussed his case, what treatment could be used, how to go about it, etc.  It was simply amazing.  Their dedication will always be remembered by our family. 

Well, now I've been rambling...but as others have said, sometimes you just have to let things out, and this has not been let out for quite a while...I had no idea that all this was still in my head, until I started typing. 

Trudi, your letter was simply wonderful...I am so glad you had such caring people in your life...

I am attaching a picture of Mike, a couple of months after his surgery, when he was finally getting some of his coordination back, and was up to feeding Damon...

love and peace to all of you.


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Carol - its true, the quality of care be it nursing or medical make all the difference .  Thank goodness your friend was there that day......a coincidence?..... I think someone was watching out for Mike. 

I love the picture.....seeing Mike feeding his beautiful boy......it really is a bittersweet memory.

I really think sharing these stories is another part of the puzzle.......another dimension. 

Thanks again.

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I can also share a similar experience, but thankfully I was spared hearing my sons rescue call first hand, the first time around. Since I had been working as a Journalist, many weekend evenings I would have our Police, Fire and Rescue Scanner on so I would have "big news" first. On Nov. 2 nd, I went out to celebrate a friends birthday, so the scanner was OFF for a change. David's rescue lasted for many hours, all of it translated over the police scanner, including my son begging for help. I have since heard much of the recordings, but even now, they are too painful to listen to.

The morning that he was killed, I received email updates from the rescue almost continually, a play by play. I do still have these.

I do believe I was at least "soared" hearing this call.

Lots of Love,


david's Mama

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Lisa - I didn't get to hear the caller on that day.  Later I tried to get access through FOI but was unable - permission need to come from Mikes partner.....and that was never going to happen.....

But surprise surprise......the legals working for my company are intending to play it in open court.....just to prove it was 'just another day at the office'.  'that I only got upset cause I lost a child'....as you would - none has anything to do with the other.....

For me, listening an hearing or even reading the ambulance printouts about the resus don't bother me while I remain clincial and professional.......but once the connection is made.................that is another story...

I hope you are travelling better on this long winding road........Take Care

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