Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rachel Jean

Stranger things have happened, and this has to be one of the strangest.

I had resisted putting up the Christmas tree, though it's 3 sleeps to Christmas. The water engineer is away overseas on work assignment, and it was just my 15 year old and me.

There was another reason why I was hesistant about putting up the tree. I wrote this in my book, "Dairy of a bereaved mother." which I posted this passage this morning.

"When Andrew died, I gave away all of his things except one, that little brown puppy dog. I kept it with his lock of hair. Then I kept it with my Christmas decoration. Every year, when we decorated the tree, I have told the children this is Andrew’s dog. In my heart, I grieve for Andrew. This is another Christmas he won’t be joining us. I told nobody about this."

We moved to this neighbourhood near Pt Chevalier Beach. The waters are too still to surf, and my 15 year old had been dreaming about surfing for a long time. We went up to Omaha beach on Sunday, bought his wetsuit, and he had become a real surfie junkie.

Yesterday, he came home and told me, I met a friend and he invited me to join him surfing. I asked how old his new friend was and he said 8. As a naturally curious and cautious mum, I wanted to know more. My son gave me the boy's mum's business card. I didn't recognise the company except it was in the media business. I told my son I would email the mum.

She replied and told me she became a widow this year. I wrote," Someone/something brought your son to my son, and then brought you to me."

When I wrote my book, I wrote as a bereaved mum, I not only became a spokesperson for bereaved parents, I also have empathy with all bereaved people, no matter who they have lost.

The Chinese say, "YOU YEARN" or have fate. As this year draws to a close, I thank God for Rachel and Frankie.

The kids are at the beach again, and I went on the google machine. This is what I found about Rachel, and I shed a tear for her.

An insight into the making of her documentary Life, Death and a Lung Transplant about her husband’s Cystic Fibrosis and lung transplant
Pauli O’Halloran is just the 96th person in New Zealand to have received a lung transplant.
Last updated 15:03 01/07/2008

A Sandringham couple has put the hardest years of their lives on the small screen.

Life, Death and A Lung Transplant is the story of cystic fibrosis sufferer Paul O’Halloran, filmed by his wife Rachel Jean.

The documentary spans five years of the couple’s lives, but most of it is based around Mr O’Halloran’s 2006 lung transplant.

He says his lungs had "given up the ghost" and were only working at 21 percent by the time he had the operation.

"I couldn’t do anything. In the last year it got pretty terrible."

The couple were living in Helensville at the time and he could not walk the length of their 50-metre drive-
way without stopping for a rest.

His condition deteriorated and he ended up in hospital more frequently, staying for up to a month each time.

Mrs Jean says a friend who also makes documentaries asked if she could do a story on Mr O’Halloran.

"We said it was fine and I asked if I could have the footage afterwards because I thought I would make a documentary if the transplant happened."

When their son Frankie was born she decided to make the documentary anyway as a record of Mr O’Halloran in case he didn’t survive.

The project became even more important when they had their daughter Violet, who was three months old when her father got his new lungs.

The couple started discussing a transplant with doctors when Mr O’Halloran’s lung function was at 35 percent.

"The specialist used the words ‘on a slippery slope’," she says.

Because the surgery is so risky, doctors started tests early and Mr O’Halloran went before a selection panel.

"It’s one of the hardest surgeries to survive and get through. It’s not fun, but having said that, I would do it again at the drop of a hat if I had to."

Fifteen percent of patients who have the operation don’t survive long enough to make it out of intensive care and only half of the survivors live past five years.

The documentary, to be screened on TV3 tomorrow night, shows the lead-up to the transplant, including the late night call from the hospital to say he had new lungs.

"I happened to have been filming the kids and I had the camera on the table. When I heard the tone of his voice and what he was saying I knew that was it.

"I picked up the camera and started filming," says Ms Jean.
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A documentary maker for 15 years, she has made more than 50 programmes and says having 24-hour access to her subject made this one of the easiest documentaries to shoot.

"A lot of it is essentially home video footage, we just tend to shoot on better cameras than the average household.

"A lot of the time we would pick up the camera and shoot it ourselves."

Because the other camera crews were acquaintances or friends, the project wasn’t stressful for Mr O’Halloran.

"It really wasn’t a big deal, it felt fine."

Although he had a successful transplant in April 2006, Mr O’Halloran had difficulties and finally got his lungs fully functioning again in November last year.

He takes between 30 and 40 pills a day to stop his body rejecting the lungs and maintain his health.

He will be on the medication for the rest of his life.

But it’s all worth it to be able to play with his children and go surfing again.

Before the transplant, he couldn’t even hold baby Violet because the weight on his chest was too great.

"It was fantastic to see her fall totally in love with her father," says Ms Jean.

The documentary ends with family and friends celebrating Violet’s first birthday.

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