“Maddie saved my life,” those were the first words a patron spoke to me when I arrived at Emma Miller Place on a balmy winter evening. The patron, Joan*, wanted to make sure that Maddie knew how grateful she was for the extra support and encouragement Maddie gave her the previous evening.
Maddison had gone over to chat with the regular patrons who were gathered around the side of the van to catch up on all the goings on from the last time she had seen the group and noticed Joan straight away.
“She was standing off to the side of the group of regulars and it was easy to see that she was in pain,” Maddison remembers. “Joan shared with me that she had major surgery the day before and was released from hospital that afternoon. She was in a significant amount of pain and was really worried about her ability to recover well outside of hospital.”
The longer the two women spoke, the more concerned Maddison became about Joan. “She was very upset, often tearing up while talking, and I saw that over a short period of time she was becoming more unwell and experiencing more pain. I was quite worried about her sleeping rough in her condition” Maddison said.
“I asked Joan if we could call an ambulance for her, but she was very reluctant. She had a very negative experience when she was discharged that afternoon – they were rude, and they treated her poorly” Maddison said.
Another volunteer, Lauren, who was with Maddison and Joan said that “We were eventually able to convince her that she needed medical support and contacted the Micah Nurse. Joan was adamant that she would not return to the hospital who had treated her unfairly and requested to be taken to the Mater.”
After explaining Joan’s situation to the Micah team and arranging for them to collect her and take her to hospital we waited with Joan to make sure she was OK until help arrived. While waiting for Micah, Maddison, Lauren, and a regular patron tried to keep Joan comfortable and hydrated but most of all calm and laughing.
The group sat with Joan cracking jokes, chatting, and providing reassurance for the majority of the outreach. “It was so nice to see her have moments where she wasn’t focused on her pain and was smiling and laughing,” Maddison said.
Eventually, Micah arrived and helped her to the hospital for further treatment. The team would not see Joan for another four weeks, but they hoped that when they met her again, she’d be in good spirits and better health.
“It was about a month later when I saw Joan again. It was like speaking with a completely different person, she looked so well, was bright and articulate, not at all the woman I spoke to the previous month. You could see the difference in her straight away,” Lauren said.
“She was very keen to thank Maddie in person and it was great for them to be reunited and share a cuppa together” Lauren continued.
Joan was so thankful for the attention and care that the team and Maddison, in particular, had shown her. Joan recounted to another volunteer, “Maddie saved my life. I had an issue after my surgery and if she hadn’t kept encouraging me to talk to Micah and get help, I don’t know what would have happened if I had slept rough that night. I don’t think I’d be here today without Maddie’s kindness.”
For Maddison the act of sitting and chatting with a stranger, offering a kind word, a friendly face and some assistance was business as usual, just part of her role as a Rosies volunteer. For Joan, that support was life changing.
“This reminded me why we outreach and how important our ‘Friendship on the Street’ can be. At the time, I didn’t think much of staying with her. To me that’s just what we do, so it has absolutely floored me how much impact a little bit of time and support can have,” said Maddison.
Little acts of courageous love like Maddison’s are not uncommon among Rosies team of more than 1,400 volunteers, but every interaction is special and every patron matters. Sometimes we can forget that it’s the little things that so often make the greatest difference.
If you find any content in this article distressing please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
*Denotes name change for patron privacy, stock photo used