Marie's role in Paddy's final trip
MARIE Mills is the kind of person who puts the extra into extraordinary.
A mother of three, she is also an unofficial foster mother to about 10 youths.
An endorsed enrolled nurse for the past seven years, she plies her professional trade at Maryborough Hospital with an infectious enthusiasm.
And when she can fit it into her busy life – by reshaping her working roster – she's the kind of person who can't say No when a dying man's last wish is at stake.
“We clicked straight away,” she says of her first meeting with Aldershot resident Paddy Coughlan in mid-2007.
As Paddy's health failed – he had two leg amputations after diabetes brought on foot ulcers before cancer set in – their friendship flourished.
So when Paddy decided he wanted to go home to die, Marie tried to make it happen.
So too did friend and Aldershot neighbour Brian who set the bon voyage wheels in motion, including the job of securing an escort nurse to tend to Paddy's numerous health needs en route.
A Gold Coast woman got the gig but three hours after the business class tickets were bought, she pulled out.
Marie stepped into the breach, somehow re-jigging her work roster to get away for five days and securing an emergency passport against the odds. She had never been out of the country.
“I didn't tell him until the last minute I was going with him. We didn't want to get his hopes up,” Marie said.
“There were others who wanted to do this but I don't think they realised what was involved.”
On the evening of their departure Paddy was told he couldn't take his electric wheelchair on board. He had lost his legs at the start of his journey home.
The journey – a mix of colostomy bags, incontinence pads, catheters, sugar levels and insulin injections– was not without its moments.
Three times a Dubai airport official tried to get Paddy on his feet before a cranky Marie intervened.
Their bond only intensified as airports were negotiated and they finally touched down at Shannon International Airport where Paddy's nephew met them.
At his nephew's home Paddy was reunited with his sister for the first time in about 15 years.
Marie caught an hour's sleep.
“I wanted to make sure he was fine before I left. I spoke with his GP and the Bluecare nurses.
“He also copped one last sponge bath in freezing conditions before I left.”
She forced back the tears as he compared her to the daughter he never had.
She found her way home – lost without his company – and immediately set about getting his electric wheelchair to Ireland.
Paddy died six weeks after his return to Ireland. His wheelchair arrived six weeks later.
“I think he would have had a little more time if he had been able to get out and around the farm. To do so much in such a little period of time and to pull it off was a miracle.”