Mervyn’s lasting memories

Mervyn O’Brien who is in end-of-life care sits in the Royal Flying Doctors Memory Lane vehicle which transported him to Bright to make long lasting memories.

End of life care can be a very sad time, but beautiful memories can also be made and individuals compassion can be cast in full light.

Yarrawonga resident Mervyn O’Brien is currently in end-of-life care but was able to have an amazing experience last week.

Mervyn’s son Gary contacted the Chronicle last week to relay the story and give recognition to those who went above and beyond to make it a beautiful day for Mervyn and his family.

“The Royal Flying Doctors (RFDS) do a ‘Memory Lane’ service, like Make A Wish for kids but this one is for adults,” Gary said.

“Palliative visited Dad last Monday and asked whilst there, if he could do any one thing what would he like to do?

“He turned to mum and straight away said a trip to Bright, which is their happy place and the place where they have celebrated many big occasions.”

With Mervyn in end of life care the family thought this would not be possible, however the palliative carer mentioned to Gary that the RFDS have a service that is entirely donor-funded staffed by medically trained health care professionals who volunteer their time to support patients in end-of-life care to visit a place that holds meaning for them.

“After this was mentioned I jumped online and registered on the Memory Lane service and within two hours I was contacted and they said they could be there on Thursday,” Gary said.

RFDS Communications and Marketing Manager Jonathon Green explained the concept of the Memory Lane service and said for people with a terminal illness or in palliative care, a simple chance to reconnect with their lives, families and friends in their final days can mean the world.

“The idea of the service came from the RFDS Chief Officer Scott Chapman seeing a documentary while in the US of a hospital driver that was driving a palliative care patient but couldn’t drop them off at the care just yet so they asked the patient what they would like to do,” Jon said.

“It was a beautiful story where the person who only had a limited amount of time left, got to do something they loved one last time.

“When Scott came home to Australia, he said we should have something like that and that we (RFDS) are the people to do it.

“We have bases all over the state, although we will happily cross into southern NSW, and have two vehicles (one in Melbourne and one in Bendigo) that still have medical equipment in them but that don’t feel clinical. It also means we can provide the service but not take ambulances off the road.

“Our custom-built Memory Lane vehicles enable people in end-of-life care to overcome access barriers and visit a place that holds meaning safely and comfortably.

“Our expertise in transporting people to access needed health and well-being services means we are well-placed to deliver on our commitment.

“We are really happy it’s a dedicated service and we and our volunteers are so keen to put a hand up and help.

“We have also had a number of nurses and doctors who haven’t previously had anything to do with the RFDS, wanting to help out which is beautiful to see.

“Mervyn’s story is the epitome of what the service is meant to be.”

After being told the service would pick up Mervyn on Thursday for his trip, he was up bright and early ready to make the trek to Bright.

Mervyn (head of the table) with his family at the Bright Brewery who produced above and beyond service.

“For a while Dad has not been able to sit for more than 15 minutes but he sat up for the whole two-hour drive from Yarrawonga to Bright and pointed out many things to us along the way,” Gary said.

“The RFDS volunteer Ben was excellent and assisted Dad with anything he needed.

“We were worried in a way going to the brewery as we knew it would be busy and with the current situation with both dad and the community but we contacted them and were assisted the whole way along.

“Supervisor Madi was absolutely outstanding and went above and beyond to assist us. Although fully booked she found us a table outdoors and she wasn’t actually supposed to be working on Thursday while we were there, but she swapped her shift to make sure she could see us.

“Dad was also after a sarsaparilla which they had sold out of, but staff walked up to the IGA specifically to get him his sarsaparilla.

“We were there for 45 minutes which was very enjoyable and when we were leaving they would not let us pay but actually themselves made a $500 donation to the RFDS.

“We could not speak highly enough of or thank Madi and her staff enough for the service they provided and they day they delivered for Dad.”

Bright Brewery Marketing Manager Laura Grey said when they heard that the family had chosen to dine at Bright Brewery for their Memory Lane wish, they were absolutely blown away and felt very blessed.

“To show our gratitude for this enormous honour, we decided to make a donation of $500 to the Royal Flying Doctors Service which provides such essential services to our regional communities,” Laura said.

“We were very proud to present the donation to the family on the day of their visit.

“On the day, the group was served by our supervisor Madi Louise Cooper, who made it her personal mission to ensure they enjoyed their day and wanted for nothing. We are very proud of Madi, whose compassion and empathy helped make the day so special.

“We are very grateful to hear that our Brewery holds such a special place in this family’s hearts, and we look forward to welcoming them for many more years to come.”

By the end of the day Mervyn was understandably very tired but the RFDS volunteers got him a specialised wheelchair/walker and wheeled him down to the river with his wife where Mervyn’s favourite music by Andrea Bocelli was also played on their phone to provide the couple with a beautiful moment and memory.

“Dad has not stopped speaking of the trip and the absolute wonderful service that was provided by both the RFDS Memory Lane service and Bright Brewery,” Gary said.

“He held my hand and said that the memory lane service and their volunteers as well as the Bright Brewery and Madi in particular need to be recognised.

“It’s an incredible volunteer thing that was done and we can not thank everyone that was a part of the day enough.”

To refer a patient, to volunteer or to donate to the RFDS Memory Lane Service visit