14 August 2023

When merger talks around the region’s health services began in 2020 and the community divided their opinions, Jan Morris was among the more apprehensive section.

The well-known Horsham businesswoman and community volunteer was concerned that services would be lost from Horsham and lives would be at risk. But after her own experience, Jan could not be more appreciative of Grampians Health and its Horsham campus team.

In 2004, Jan was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which was triggered by shock from when she was in an horrific car accident that took the life of her husband Richard. The former nurse had been in good health for many years but one night last September, Jan woke with a shocking pain in her head.

She tried deep breathing exercises and took Panadol but the pain wasn’t getting any better.

“My husband Don rang my daughter Pauline and she said ‘right Mum we are going straight to the hospital.’

“She took me to Wimmera Base Hospital’s Emergency Department at about 11pm and they took me straight in, no qualms at all and then they started testing me for everything,” Jan said.

“There were x-rays and scans and they kept ruling out possibilities.”

The hospital’s resident medical officer Dr Roshan Brito-Mutunayagam was called in to ED to assess Jan.

“Dr Brito came in and told me ‘you’ve got polymyalgia and it lowers the immune system and it’s quite serious so we need to get straight onto it’.

“I was admitted into the Yandilla acute ward at Horsham and for the next week or so they ran all sorts of tests. They showed that my red blood cells were down and my whites were up and my iron was terrible so they gave me an iron infusion and a blood infusion.”

Jan said Dr Brito prescribed steroids to help recharge her immune system.

“The steroids threw my diabetes ‘out to billio’ so Dr Brito drew up a plan for me to ease from them.”

Jan was determined to get back home from the hospital after that first round of care because as a long-time contributor and lover of the arts, she had a show she didn’t want to miss.

Her beloved Horsham Arts Council was staging a production of Legally Blonde at Horsham Theatre

“I was released from hospital after five days and I went and saw the show but by 7am the next morning I was very sick and in a lot of pain,” she said.

“My son Michael rushed me straight back to hospital and straight into Emergency again where I was quickly diagnosed with septicemia. Dr Brito was in like a flash and they started working very hard on treating me.

“Being a former nurse, I was monitoring myself closely and watching my blood pressure drop and was thinking they will need to do something about that soon.

“Then I heard Dr Brito say to the registrar, ‘these are two private numbers at the Alfred Hospital. I’ve sent everything down, ring them and tell them we will need something within half an hour’.

“And that happened. Within the half hour, I was on oxygen and was connected to other lines then I remember the nurse saying this is going to be terribly cold when it goes in but we haven’t got time to wait. It has to go in now.

“Within no time at all, things came good.”

Jan was admitted to WBH’s ICU where she remained for the next few days.

“I remember Michael was with me in hospital when my daughter rang from her tropical holiday spot and suggested that I be transferred to a Melbourne hospital,” Jan said.

“Michael told her I wasn’t going anywhere. He said ‘no, she’s very comfortable here and this is where she is staying’.

“He was right. I felt really confident that I was getting the right care and I knew they had acted correctly at that crucial moment. I felt like the medical team were right onto my condition and treatment and I really feel that I have them to thank.

“I knew by the monitors at that crucial moment that things weren’t looking too good and once they got me into ICU with all the stuff that was going into my body, I felt reassured.

“The care in ICU was just amazing. A nurse was there any time for anything I needed and the $40,000 bed that had all the right equipment was very comfortable to the point where I didn’t want to go home in the end.”

Jan said she was telling her story because she just wanted the community to feel comfort in what was available to them locally and to remind them of the correct emergency procedure.

“I just want people to know that we’ve got it here in Horsham if you need it. The care from everybody, including the night duty team, you know I can’t fault it.

“But one thing I learned is that I was lucky that I was able to go straight in when we got to Emergency, most likely due to the hour of the evening.

“What I should have done was ring for an ambulance because that would have provided immediate care and would pretty much guarantee that I was treated immediately in Emergency, regardless.”

Jan said she was also grateful for the advice she received while in hospital about the care her husband Don would need for his Alzheimer’s.

“It was something I had never considered before because I was always there for him but I was given some very sound advice. I don’t even know who he was because I was a little out of it all at the time.”

Jan gave another example of the level of attention: “When they were treating me at one stage they were feeding a copper wire into me and they were explaining the procedure to my daughter as they were doing it to reassure her.

“Anyone that feels negative about the services we have since the merger, they need to have another look because it was all right here for me and I could get the treatment I needed without going anywhere.

“Who knows, if I had to be transferred to Ballarat or Melbourne, I might not have made it.

“At the beginning of the merger, I was one of the concerned community members for sure but now I couldn’t be more happier and I know the staff at Horsham saved my life.”

Jan Morris

Pictured: Local businesswoman Jan Morris.