Robert Harrell


We omitted this panel in the last issue of the Circulator but, sadly, we include it again to honour Robert Harrell. Robert passed away last August, and will be sadly missed by his wife, Gayle, his family (Gayle, 4 daughters from his first marriage, 4 grand-children, and 5 great-grand-children!), and his many friends in the transplant community.

Robert, as many of you were probably unaware, and as Gayle may never forgive me for saying, was a regular donor to HLTTV's funds, and got as excited as we did when a new project we could support was undertaken every year. HLTTV owes him an inestimable debt of gratitude for these unselfish gifts.

Gayle has reminded me that Robert’s efforts on both the Clinic and the Alfred’s behalf were not limited to donations. Robert was an artist, and some of his brass etchings can be seen around the Hospital-including a map of the world in the Clinic. There are other pieces in 2F, 7C, and one in the Nuclear Medicine area. In earlier times Robert’s works have been gift offering at some of our annual BBQ’s.

Robert had 14 1/2 extra years, Gayle tells me, thanks to his transplant, and enjoyed every one of them. That probably says it all. (Ed.)

A view by Gayle Harrell

Recently, I wrote to Gayle Harrell to thank her for a donation, send her a membership badge and a receipt whilst renewing HLTTV membership. Gayle is the widow of Robert,a heart transplant recipient featured in Issue 10 of The Circulator (June 1997). He passed away in 2004 and Gayle remains an active supporter of HLTTV. I took the opportunity to ask for her thoughts on an issue which HLTTV has some difficulty in handling.

This is what I asked
“knowing how to best support carers and families members when they pass away. Currently we only hear of events some time later and often bumble on sending out The Circulator and carrying on with normal business. HLTTV would love to do something that is more pro-active, meaningful and relevant not only at the time but also into the future. If you feel like you want to provide your thoughts, I will be glad to listen”

Half expecting not to hear anything because it is such a deep and personal issue, I received the following remarkable, touching letter full of good intent and heartfelt ideas. It is reproduced here in full, without alteration and with Gayle’s permission. It needs no further embellishment or introduction. (President John Bisiach - 2009)

“Dear John,
Thank you for your letter. I do not have a computer, so could not email my response to you.
You certainly had me searching for my thinking cap, before I could even use it. I understand your quandary, but I don’t know if I will be of much help, but will pass on my thoughts anyway.

I can only write about how it felt, which may not be how everyone who is bereaved also feels. I was extremely touched when a memorial to Robert was published in the Circulator, by the then editor, David Lawley. Although we had not met David, he knew of Robert because he was a generous and frequent donor to HLTTV because he believed in it and because he wanted to do something as a way saying thanks for 141/2 years he would not have had. He also donated because he had not had an easy time post transplant (85 hospitalisations) and had become quite frail, so he donated as he could not give his time. I had probably informed David of Robert’s passing and said that I still wanted to be a member, because I believed in it too.

Anything quilted or hand stitched that appears for the Christmas raffle is usually mine, although it took me two years before I was able to walk in the door and bring stuff up to the clinic. I got as far as the lobby. Of course, once in the clinic I promptly dissolved into tears all over Wendy and Anne Griffith. But enough of that

I am sure you try to put something in the Circulator, each time a member of the transplant family passes on, even if it is just a general thanks to the family for sharing some of the transplant journey if you do not know too much about the member who has passed on. That way, all should feel they are important, even if they are not on the committee or actively involved. Just by having a transplant means that you are doing something about spreading the good word on organ donation.

Some may be like me and want to visit the clinic (because they became our friends), but can’t; so perhaps, when they are ready to do so, there could be someone who would volunteer to go with them. I would be happy to take part in something like that, maybe for anyone from Geelong and district.

If you come up with a series of options (like Palliative Care does), if you could send a card with those options which could be taken up if so desired. Palliative care offered: lunch (at our own expense), bus trips (at their own expense, but they have funds and you do not), volunteer gardening at the Palliative Care unit (I did that for a while) and a phone number to call if you needed a shoulder to cry on. They also have an annual church service, where you light a candle where you light up a candle in memory of your loved one. The name is read out. This is very hard to do but they have boxes of tissues to cope with those of us who dissolve in tears.

The local church does something similar, but they ask you to bring flowers from your home to be placed in a framework. I am sure you have heard of these options. For long term help, I think it may be more along the lines of what we can do for you. That is very fulfilling and I will continue quilting for you as long as I am able and as long as you want any goods for raffles.

Perhaps the clinic could use the services of a volunteer on clinic day, even if it is just a guide around the hospital for people who get lost!

You might need a volunteer to be big brother/sister for someone waiting for a transplant. They could just be available at the end of a phone; it does not have to be intrusive. Something like this was mooted a number of years ago and this may already be in place.

Perhaps stories of their journey would be welcome in the Circulator, even if they have never written anything before.

I am sure all are still encouraged to come to the BBQ.

I must admit, that trying to think of things that do not involve a cost on your behalf, is a hard task. I wish you well. I think the Trust does a great job. It certainly has grown since it first started, but then so has the transplant community. I hope that your ideas come to some fruition, and are appreciated. For me I am still happy to receive the Circulator and to make items for the raffles.

Yours sincerely
Gayle Harrell