Late husband’s passion inspires Ethiopian adventure

Published in the Daily Telegraph, 02/08/16. Story by Angela Saurine.

Late husband’s passion inspires Ethiopia charity challenge for Dr Catherine Hamlin’s fistula hospital. 

HER late husband Ian was a surgeon with a passion for indigenous health, and Trish O’Rourke knows he would be smiling down on her if he knew about her new endeavour.

The retired teacher, from Birchgrove, is travelling to Ethiopia in November for a charity tour to raise money for Australian doctor Catherine Hamlin’s hospital there, which helps women suffering shocking childbirth injuries called obstetric fistulas.

Mr O’Rourke, who died 12 years ago, spent five years as a surgeon at Royal Darwin Hospital, and Mrs O’Rourke lived there with him for four of those years.

“He’d be absolutely delighted if he knew, thrilled to bits,” she said.

“I had 35 years of hearing about not much except surgery. I used to live and breathe what was going on in indigenous health and then suddenly that was gone.”

“When I heard about this I just thought it would be lovely to get back thinking about medicine again, and it’s just such an honour to be able to support someone like Catherine Hamlin.”

The 68-year-old has two daughters of her own, but said you don’t need to have children to imagine what it must be like to experience life-threatening childbirth injuries with few support systems.

“To me it’s shocking that in 2016 these women are still experiencing this sort of lack of medical support”, she said.

“When I read Catherine’s book The Hospital by the River it was quite spooky because I thought Ian had been a one-off, but the way she described her late husband Reg was quite similar.”

Mrs O’Rourke had never fundraised before and was nervous about raising the $10,000 in donations required to do the tour through World Expeditions Huma Charity Challenge, but so far has raised more than $7000.

“I have been astonished at how generous and positive people have been”, she said.

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