Don't worry, we'll take care of that...
One day in 2015, former teacher Theresa* walked into her kitchen, reached for the kettle to make a cup of tea and collapsed. She awoke from a coma eight days later, having suffered a major stroke. Luckily her medic flatmate was at home that day and rushed to the kitchen to help save her life.
Theresa, 65, was in hospital for five weeks, but when she was finally allowed home, she and her flat-mate were evicted shortly afterwards because he hadn’t been paying the rent in her absence, despite Theresa paying her share. Such is often the way that one life crisis can have profound knock-on effects in a person’s situation.
Theresa says that almost becoming homeless compounded her recovery and having to move into a boarding house had a dire impact on her mental health, too. Thankfully, she was able to move into a one-bed social housing unit, but had difficulty affording all the outgoings on top of her medical costs. She has to take 12 tablets in the mornings and six in the evenings every day for the rest of her life.
“Needing medicine that you can’t afford is such a worry,” says Theresa. “I knew it was important to have it, but I couldn’t afford to live after paying the pharmacy bill.”
And then she found Vinnies.
“The Vinnies volunteer who came to my door was lovely. I told her that I sometimes didn’t eat so I could pay for everything else.
“She said, ‘Don’t worry, we can take care of that’.” Theresa’s voice cracks when she adds: “I’ll never forget that feeling of relief that somebody cares.”
Theresa’s medical costs are around $50 a month, which is beyond her means on her Disability Support Pension. Vinnies pays these pharmacy costs now every month.
“The best thing is,” said Theresa, “Vinnies paid the set-up cost for the medications to be placed in a Webster pak.” A Webster pak is a blister package containing the tablets in day, date and time compartments over a week.
“It’s a small amount of money to set it up, but I never had it. And after the stroke, I found remembering when to take the tablets a real issue,” she says.
Theresa talks about how she was initially put on Newstart, and how, despite her ongoing health issues, she felt under pressure to do the 15 hours of work associated with the benefit. “I didn’t have petrol to get there either, and when I explained that, no one cared. It depletes your soul,” she says.
“The difference with Vinnies is that you can tell the volunteers genuinely care about you. They help people for the right reasons, not to make themselves look good.”
Theresa only has a small amount of pension. “I’ve worked hard all my life, and I’m grateful for what I’ve got, but the help from Vinnies has made an incredible difference.
“Vinnies has helped lift me out of the mindset that I am counting every penny. I don’t need much and I’m not greedy, but after what I’ve been through with my health, I don’t want to be totally stressed out about money at my age, especially after having a stroke.
“I’ve only recently started to feel better about myself, like I might enjoy my life a little. That’s a nice feeling when I’ve just been trying to survive for so long.”
*First name and stock image used to protect the person’s identity.