Alison Gardener Brooks Remembers

At age 18, in 1976, I started training as a registered nurse at Concord in 1976. And graduated as a Registered Nurse by age 21. I think our training group was 119 but might be wrong.

There were, I think, 20ish ramp wards at the time: medical respiratory, renal dialysis, psychiatric and ramp wards that had been changed into physiotherapy wards. I worked in the renal ward at the time of the Granville Train Accident and nursed a young girl who had been in the accident and required renal dialysis. I would have liked to have known how she progressed.

The main buildings were the more critical wards. While I worked there it became Repatriation General Hospital. The hospital’s Emergency & Accident was opened in 1976. A very modern burns section was added in 1977.

We went to Camperdown Children’s Hospital for Paediatric training. We had no children’s wards at Concord.

The main building was built in a T-shape; the stairs and lifts in the centre and 3 wards going off three ways – Level 1 to 6. wards 110. 120, 130 and so forth – to level 6. wards 610, 620, 630. Each ward either male or female. No mixing. I still find the mixed wards difficult to accept.

We had plenty of staff, plenty of resources. We worked hard, but there was always backup when required. And we were very well trained. I loved my training and couldn’t believe how archaic Wollongong hospital felt when I moved to Wollongong.

The CCU and Step Down all had modern equipment, having been a repatriation hospital for returned vets. That was in the days when they were respected. It disgusts me today to see how badly vets are treated.

I followed by doing Midwifery, then had three children and worked here and there in between. I did a post grad degree in education and managed to end up working as Clinical Finance Manager in the Illawarra Area Health. Later worked for a stint at Wollongong Uni and then running the AIN courses. The last 10 years I worked with Sanofi in their Cardiac and then Diabetes.

I have been retired now for 4 years with four grandchildren, two boys and two girls aged 9, 8, 8 and 7. Yet still Concord holds fond memories.

I often wonder if there is a reunion committee, it would be great to catch up. I remember running into Greg Keen running a children’s ward in Haematology years later, and Julie Lancôme (Gray) moved to Wollongong and we caught up for what are now “play dates” for our kids.

And, for now, retired and travelling – China, Russia, UK, Greece, Italy, France, Slovenia and Germany. We hope, next year, to travel to Spain and Morocco. Hopefully when the world is a bit healthier.

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