It was a happy moment of chance that brought St George local Mary-Ann, her family and the Heart of Australia team together.
It was 2014, and members of the Heart of Australia team were in St George planning the logistics and scouting for accommodation ahead of the launch of HEART1. They visited the Jacaranda Country Motel, owned and managed by Mary-Ann Crowe.
Mary-Ann recalls it was a fortunate meeting for all concerned.
“The Heart of Australia staff member came into the motel looking for quotes for rooms. We got chatting, and he told me about the specialist trucks and the medical services Heart of Australia would be offering to St George and other parts of rural Queensland.
“We were over the moon to hear about this service because my daughter Cassandra had several complicated health issues. It felt like him walking into our motel was meant to be.”
When Mary-Ann’s daughter Cassandra was born, her life expectancy was short, but they had not factored in the strength, determination and resilience of Cassandra and her mother. But there were challenges. Cassandra had down syndrome, and a complicated heart condition, among other health issues that required significant specialist attention.
“St George has some great medical care. However, due to the severity of Cassandra’s condition, the nearest specialist medical attention for the services she needed was at the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane. For someone in poor health, the all-day travel it takes to get there is a hard trip to make. And you also have the cost of travel, overnight accommodation and the time away from work. It made it very hard to get her the right care that she deserved.”
“That all changed when Heart of Australia came to town.”
“Cassandra loved the truck. She loved the way Rolf and all the staff treated her so well and made her feel important. She loved feeling important. We loved the family-oriented values of Heart of Australia.
“Setting up the specialist medical clinic just a block down the road from our house gave us the opportunity to get her seen by specialists more than ever before. This ease of access became particularly vital as she got older, and her condition deteriorated.
“St George has some excellent GP’s; however, having the support of the specialists at HOA gave us peace of mind that we were doing everything possible. They helped us manage Cassandra’s deteriorating health condition, and they helped provide the GPs with the support they needed to be able to care for her.
“The last few years of Cassandra’s life were very hard, however, with help from Rolf and all the other doctors we managed to do as much as we could for as long as we could.
“We are so thankful they came when they did”.
“Cassandra had such a beautiful spirit. She absolutely loved life. Although she was almost deaf, she always managed to get her message through. She was even amazing at lip-reading… but only when she wanted to be.
Cassandra passed away in August 2018, 5 minutes past midnight on her mother Mary-Ann’s birthday.
“On Cassandra’s last day, she gathered all the grandkids around and gave them a very royal wave as she was taken away in the ambulance. She knew that was her last day, Cassandra asked us to pray for her, as she would soon become a butterfly in heaven.
Cassandra is one of the youngest patients that Heart of Australia has had the privilege to support.
“The services Heart of Australia provides are amazing, it’s just so important for country people to be able to stay in their towns if they want to. I know it was for Cassandra”.
Mary-Ann and her husband continue to run the Jacaranda Country Motel, and they will celebrate their 10th anniversary of managing the hotel next year.
“It’s been hard work, but we love it. It’s a tough time to own a rural motel. When rural Australia is in drought, it affects everyone. There are fewer workers, and companies send fewer salespeople and reps to town because people don’t have the money to buy what they’re selling. Fewer people coming to town means less demand for motel rooms.”
“The tourists can help, Grey nomads are great for the town, but they come with their own camper vans and don’t require accommodation. We’d love some more tourists to come and visit who also need a place to sleep. We’d take great care of them.”
“That’s my favourite part of owning our motel – the people. We love our regulars and the relationships we get to build. I love people, and I’m always interested to hear their stories.”
Mary-Ann is an active member of the St George & District Chamber of Commerce, and a passionate champion for buying goods and services from the local rural community.
“When you buy everything you can from local businesses, and hire local people, the money stays in the community for longer.”
“Being located in the beating heart of St George provides the opportunity to employ local people, buy local food, and keep as much money in the community as possible. Due to St George being a relatively small town, we strive to do as much as we can to support our local community”.
Heart of Australia is committed to supporting the communities we serve, both on and off the Heart Trucks. Part of the way we do that is by supporting local businesses whenever we come to town.
Members of the Heart of Australia team have been staying at The Jacaranda Country Motel when in St George since 2014.