Tender acts of mercy allowed us to be there for Bronwen

Bronwen and her two daughters Emma (left) and Madeline (right).

In our June edition we profiled author Julie Perrin who had written a collection of stories on the theme of grace. We invited you to share your stories of a similar nature. What follows is one of those responses.

In 2005, our then vivacious 23-year-old daughter, Bronwen, was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, which means that blood vessels in her brain are malformed. If left untreated she was likely to have a serious stroke or aneurism. 

Adding to the problem was the fact she lived in London, which presented my husband and I with some interesting financial challenges, such as airfares and accommodation.

Our first indication that there was a health problem was when we received a phone call at 1.30am from one of Bronwen’s friends to say she had collapsed at Kings Cross Railway Station and was in hospital. 

When we were finally able to speak to Bronwen she said that she was expecting to have open brain surgery within a week and she was really scared (not a surprising response!). 

As any parent would do, we got on the next available plane after a quick dash to the bank for a loan.

Word quickly spread amongst our friends and we felt a first wave of compassion as we left with their good wishes and offers of “can I do anything for you?”

These offers quickly became reality when one person managed to get us upgraded to business class on our flight to London and back. Given the stressful circumstances, this was most welcome.   

We had booked the first two nights’ accommodation near the hospital and, as it turned out, this was the only accommodation we paid for in our five trips to London over the next two years.

How amazing, especially as we had no UK contacts before this visit.  Bronwen’s young flatmates took us under their wings and some of them slept under the stairs or on the lounge floor so we could use their beds during our two-and-a-half-week stay.

As it turned out, Bronwen didn’t need surgery right away so the three of us flew back to Australia. However, it wasn’t long before Bronwen did need an operation and she decided to have it in London, so my husband and I started searching the internet for cheap accommodation. The cheapest we could find was out of our financial league. Soon after, a businessman who had an apartment in Notting Hill offered it to us rent-free because he would be away on holidays.

Then we discovered Bronwen’s second operation would be eight weeks after the first one. We didn’t know whether to return to Australia or stay in the UK. Our problem was solved when a former acquaintance offered us unlimited accommodation in Herefordshire.

We were living in a renovated late 16th century cottage in a small rural area of only 400 people. One day we met a lady who knew of a retired doctor. She and her husband had an apartment in Kensington that they loaned to us whenever we required it. In fact, they stayed with relatives whenever they visited London so as not to inconvenience us.

We now had two London apartments, free of charge!

In all, Bronwen had five operations over two years. In 2007, she suffered a stroke, which resulted in her losing the use of the left side of her body. Her recovery presented many problems, not the least of which was the fact she could not afford her rent without a job.

Fortunately, by this time she had developed a relationship with a former work colleague who provided a roof over her head and lots of TLC. The two of them are now happily married with two lovely daughters and live in Melbourne.

Bronwen recently told me if she could have her life over again she would not change a thing. And neither would I. Those difficult years were so filled with love, compassion and grace that it actually became a high point of my life.                                                                    

Kaye Cooke, Kingston, Tasmania

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