Behind The Wish - Kaye Nugent

Meet Kate Nugent - one of the key members of the Hobart Branch.

For eight years, Kaye Nugent has worked hard for Wish kids in Tasmania.

Behind The Wish is our series of inspirational reads diving into the everyday superheroes involved in creating life-changing wishes.


Life lessons at an early age

I just turned 70, but I feel 16 still. I grew up in Hobart and I was the middle child of three siblings.

Mum was widowed at a very young age. She was an incredible woman, she brought up three of us. Dad passed away from a heart attack. He was volunteering at the time, with the Scouts.

He was doing what they call a bottle drive. He was very community-minded, which was lovely. He was involved in the Royal Yacht Club. He was the official finisher of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Mum battled hard to bring us up, there were no pensions in those days. We were the original latch-key kids.

After dad’s passing, she had to go back to work full-time to pay the mortgage. She was a secretary, she worked for an architect’s firm for many years and then at night she would work pick up work as a typist.

I learnt patience from my mum. And hard work. If you’re going to do something, give it your all.

Everything she did was 110 per cent. And I think we, her three children, have done that.

I got married young, far too young. I was 17. I had my daughter Jodie, but that marriage didn’t last very long.

That was a challenging time of my life. I have had a few challenging times over my life.

I brought my daughter up mostly on my own. Then I met somebody else quite a few years later.

Long story cut short, I brought my son up on my own for about six years and then we got back together again. So, I had a teenager and a baby on my own, you couldn’t get much more of a challenging time.

I have had to work hard and do without but it’s made me a better person. Jodie and Sam are my children.


Moving to Melbourne to help grandson

My daughter Jodie has two boys, Cooper who is 17 and Hamish who is 15. Cooper was born with a hole in the heart.

But we didn’t have anything done about that till after Hamish was born, when it hadn’t repaired itself. But that’s a fairly common thing these days. Hamish was taken to the children’s hospital in an incubator within hours of his birth.

Hamish’s was a difficult pregnancy, at 20 weeks Jodie was told that the baby wouldn’t live because it had a congenital heart defect: hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

They had two options: have a live birth at 20 weeks or have a termination. Jodie was just devastated so they chose to go forward with the pregnancy and see what happens.

In the meantime, we did lots of research and found out more about the condition.

I gave up work and moved to Melbourne for 12 months and helped Jodie and her husband Eddie, they would be with Hamish and I needed to be with Cooper. It was a tag team. Either I was in the hospital with Hamish or they were.

Hamish had his first surgery less than 24 hours old. He had over 40 hours of open-heart surgery before he was three. They are amazing the specialists and doctors in Melbourne.

Picture: Hamish with mum Jodie and grandmother Kaye.

I feel blessed to be able to look after Hamish through that time. I stayed at the hospital, I nursed him through.

He didn’t want anybody touching him at a couple of months old. Because every time he had been touched was painful for him.

I was so blessed to be able to nurse him beside his cot while he was hooked up to different things.

I got to hold him and stroke him and play classical music for him. He became very tactile. I am blessed that I have got this beautiful relationship with him.

We nearly lost him many times. Many times, we were told he wasn’t going to get through the night.

In fact, on my son’s 21st birthday, I had flown home for it from Melbourne and that night on the way to the 21st I was told Hamish wasn’t going to get through the night. I had to try and put on a brave face for my son and then I flew back out again the next morning.


Husky experience a boost for sick boy

It was a challenging time but it was worth it in the end. It’s been a rocky road; he still goes over to Melbourne to see his cardiologist every six months or the cardiologist will come to Hobart.

It was a very rare condition he has; we have had our moments.

We approached the Ambulance Tasmania service and we explained to them about it. We went to the local station and talked to them about what Hamish needed and what would happen if he had this, that and the other.

They got a group of them who work there to come in one night and we went and met them all. And as it turned out we did have to call them a few times. So, they knew what to expect.

Picture: Kaye holding a photo of Jodie and Hamish.

Somebody put us onto Make-A-Wish and that was absolutely amazing. I wasn’t with Make-A-Wish then but Hamish was how I got involved with them.

Hamish was 6 and Make-A-Wish came down and had a chat to him and the family. When he was a little bit younger than 6, he used to watch Big Ted on television.

He just loved huskies and to be able to hold a husky and to be in the snow and ride on a sled, was all part of his wish. I was lucky enough to be invited to go too.

We went to Mount Hotham and it was fantastic. We had just the best time.

He gets tired very easily because of his condition so sometimes I would go back with him in the afternoon and Jodie, Eddie and Cooper would stay out there.

We would rest and play with teddies, have afternoon tea on the porch where we were staying.

He went on a sled and I still remember him exclaiming ‘yay’ as he went off. He still remembers it. The huskies were pulling the sled. It was such a special time.

I couldn’t stay for the duration of the wish trip but was there for 3 days before I had to go back to work.

Hamish would come out at 6am with his pyjamas on and his skis on and be ready to go out! The whole lot, every minute, was just so special. Having a chance to sit down with him in the afternoon, was special.

He went toboggining at one stage and that was hysterical. He just loved that.


Kaye's calling to join Make-A-Wish

Funnily enough many years ago when I was with Qantas, our wonderful Make-A-Wish national patron Robyn Moore used to fly in and out all the time and I met her and I used to admire her immensely.

She was a motivational speaker and such a wonderful woman.

She used to talk about these fantastic things that she did and I always thought to myself I would like to volunteer when I have time. It was always in the back of my mind, because I love kids.

It was something that I really, really wanted to do. Then this opportunity came up and I thought ‘yep, this is it’.

As Hamish was doing as well as he can do and still is – it’s still an unknown with Hamish so we just love him while we have him – I thought I would join Make-A-Wish.

It was straight after I returned from Mount Hotham, I thought to myself ‘this is what I want to do’.

The people I have met through Make-A-Wish are amazing. Really like-minded, compassionate people.

I have actually retired, well semi-retired as I have been back to work a few times. My son has two children so I have a granddaughter who is 2 and a grandson who is 10 months.

I have done a lot of travelling but I would like to travel more. I just look forward to enjoying life.

I love people, I love children, I like to help people and have compassion and understanding. I like to let people know that life will get easier and better.

With wish families sometimes it’s just a matter of being there, so they know someone cares. That there is somebody to reach out to. Sometimes it’s not the best outcome for these children.

It’s being there to support the family and make it a really special time. If they have something coming up like an operation or appointment having the wish gives them something positive in their lives.

What we do makes such a huge impact on their lives and the families just realise that there are other people out there that care. That to me is so important.

And we can give them a glimmer of hope and of a special time, a good memory and something that they can think about in the tough times.

The anticipation I think is one of the biggest parts of what we do. Finding out what they want.

Being able to go to these meetings and just bounce off each other with ideas is so much fun, then seeing it come together and the presentation when you see the child’s face, the way they light up is just unbelievable. That’s the best part.

The Hobart volunteers are a fabulous branch. Very compassionate branch, very loving. Just like a big family.


Looking at life through a different lens

Hamish still has mementoes of his trip. He has some fantastic memories and he’ll talk to me about them. I think for whole families to have that special memory after being through so much, it means the world to them.

It’s also important the siblings are not left behind. It’s making sure they are important too, even though it’s not their wish.

One of the wishes I have done with Robyn recently with Grace is a favourite of mine. It had been on hold because of the floods, that is probably the one we have had the most fun with. Grace’s wish is a safari wish.

Robyn is fantastic, she comes up with these left of centre ideas. She said let’s put together a list of funny things that animals do; we were in hysterics. Fun facts about different types of animals.

Grace’s wish is to do different things in the safari park. Her family is delightful, so grateful for everything we do.

Robyn has a very close connection with Grace's mum, who is her GP. Unbeknown to Robyn and Grace’s mum, so it’s been very special for her and that had made it very special for us.

Beautiful family and very thankful and grateful for everything. They are so excited and looking forward to it.

Make-A-Wish has had a huge impact on me.

Just realising how many people are going through things. I was probably fairly well aware of it, having spent so long in the children’s hospital in Melbourne.

It’s impacted me positively in so many ways. If I have a down day then I think of these kids that are trying to cope with so much more than I could imagine and they just get on with life. It makes you look through a different lens and think ‘how lucky am I’.

You make the most of life. Life is for living because you don’t know what’s around the corner.

Picture: Kaye with fellow Hobart volunteer Romany.

I am so proud to be part of Make-A-Wish. I love wearing the Make-A-Wish uniform. It makes you feel powerful, that you can do this and people recognise that that’s what we do.

I highly recommend joining Make-A-Wish. There’s the personal growth you get out of it, there’s the contacts – not just the volunteers but the people that you meet - can change your whole life.

It really makes you appreciate what you have got and where you’re going.

It’s the connection we all have, we all seem to be on the same page.

We have the same empathy, compassion and passion for helping people and getting out there and doing it, and supporting each other.

And there’s fun, we do have lots of laughs as well as going through tough times with each other. I love the support network.

People really do care for each other. When people go through things people think ‘oh my God are they ok, is there anything we can do’.

Kaye has been a proud volunteer since 2015