Torn family reunited after contest win

19:27, Jan 25 2012
nelson news
BLOWN AWAY: Lisa Toby, right, hugs Kristin Nimmo after meeting her in Kaiteriteri, after she and her family won a family reunification competition Nimmo's company ran.

A few years ago, life for Nelson's Sharon McDonald was hell.

Her husband was in hospital, with his body ravaged by gangrene, a daughter in Australia was also in hospital, after a difficult pregnancy ended in a premature birth, and she could not do a thing to help.

But yesterday, relaxing at Kaiteriteri's Bethany Park, she was able to look back at those days as an unpleasant memory and relax in the company of her nearest and dearest after the family were reunited and given the chance to catch up through winning an annual competition organised by a Richmond retirement village.

Three years ago, McDonald and her family were torn apart when the two crises struck simultaneously.

Daughter Lisa Toby, who lives north of Sydney with husband Mitchell, developed complications towards the end of her pregnancy. She was eventually flown by air ambulance to nearby Newcastle.

Her son, Archie, was born 10 weeks premature and she spent months in hospital recovering, suffering from post-traumatic stress and paralysis caused by the anaesthetic used in the delivery.

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At the same time, McDonald's husband, Ramon, was in hospital in Nelson for gangrene in both his legs and was so ill that at times it did not look like he would pull through.

He eventually had part of one leg amputated and lost the toes on the other foot.

Sharon McDonald said it was awful to be torn between the two situations, faced with the possibility of losing either of her loved ones.

"It was just horrible. We didn't know whether Ramon was going to pull through,'' she said.

''I rang up to see whether [Lisa] was still all right. It was heart-wrenching. You want to be there."

Archie, now 3, was recently diagnosed with autism, but the family has struggled to receive assistance from the Australian authorities.

After all this stress, McDonald entered her daughter's family in the Bring Me Home for Christmas competition - a chance for families to bring home a loved one - held annually by the Stillwater Gardens Retirement Village.

The aim was to give a family a break and let them catch their breath, she said.

When McDonald found out she had won the competition and that her family would be reunited, she was over the moon.

"I'm just blown away. It's so fantastic to get everybody together."

Son Nigel, who lives in Melbourne, will fly over to complete the reunion at the weekend.

Toby said the break was perfect for the family as the quiet and relaxed camp suited Archie.

The Nelson Mail