Brenda Robilliard had few expectations when she returned to Westmead Hospital 25 years ago to train as a grief counsellor.
“I thought I’d be there for 12 months and then go into private practice,” she said.
“But God had other plans.”
The Northmead resident became the hospital’s Baptist chaplain not long after and has been there ever since.
Her ties with Westmead date back to 1980s, where she worked as a nurse. She was a nursing unit manager in wards A3C, C3A and B5C and helped set up Australia’s first adolescent ward.
“The hospital was relatively small in those days, some of the buildings weren’t even finished yet,” she said.
“Now it goes to J block. I left nursing in 1984 to look after my husband John.”
He was the second person in Australia to receive a heart and lung transplant. Mrs Robilliard kept a diary during that time and was regularly asked to speak at seminars about her family’s experience, which inspired her to become a counsellor.
In July 2000, the couple were on their way to hospital to meet their baby granddaughter for the first time when Mr Robilliard died suddenly in his wife’s arms.
For the last 25 years, Mrs Robilliard has provided spiritual care to Westmead Hospital staff, patients and their families.
It’s not religious, we’re here for everyone,” she said.
“Many people have had no contact with the church. I’m here to listen to people and give them some direction on whatever journey they’re on. It’s a privilege to hear people’s stories and getting to know them. I often get called in following someone’s passing and go home knowing a lot about them through the eyes of their family and friends. The stories of people’s courage and resilience leaves me in awe.”
It will be the end of an era when Mrs Robilliard retires next Wednesday, October 4.
The Western Sydney Local Health District Facebook page has been flooded with tributes following the news of her retirement.
“I’ve been having problems with my heart, so it’s time to practice what I preach and look after myself,” Mrs Robilliard said.
“I get butterflies when I think about my last day. l’m sure I’ll shed a lot of tears before the big day.”
Westmead Hospital will always have a special place in her heart.
“I’m proud to have been a part of such a fabulous place,” Mrs Robilliard said.
“It’s sad to leave but I’m excited by the rebuilding of Westmead. I hope I’m still here in 2020 to see the new acute services building open.”