‘Never to be Forgotten’ – Remembering Dr Thelma McKeon-Reid

Vale Thelma McKeon Reid, 1922 – 2020.


‘Never to be Forgotten’

Dr Thelma McKeon-Reid – 1922 – 2020

BORN in 1922, Dr Thelma McKeon-Reid’s dedicated life ended in her 99th year, after serving people for a period of 50 years in the Dorrigo, Bellingen and Coffs Harbour districts.

Having a father who served in both the Boer War and World War 1, it came as a wonderful surprise that Thelma could attend Sydney University.

She was a very bright student who, having qualified for Fort Street Girls School, claimed the opportunity to pursue a career in Medicine.

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“When I discovered that a University Education was possible, I never looked back,” Thelma said.

Such were her capabilities and motivation, the six year Medical Degree was completed in five years and three months.

“I have never regretted the decision,” she said.

Being a woman of her generation, choosing Medicine was a rare decision.

Her first appointment was to Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, then followed by her Maternity Training at the Royal Paddington Hospital for Women.

In pursuit of additional experience and qualifications, she was ‘attracted’ to the Canterbury Hospital, Lakemba, where she was immediately welcomed.

With her professional intentions, obstacles never stood in the path.

Later, a Dr Victor Maynard Early– with whom she graduated from Sydney University, invited her to join him in his newly established Dorrigo country practice.

“It was most demanding involving regular bush accidents and 150 confinements per year.

“It was exceedingly busy involving late nights and early morning ‘deliveries’,” Thelma commented.

This led to work in multiple Coffs Harbour practices, including the newly constructed Coffs Medical Centre.

Around a cup of tea one afternoon, Thelma and a long-time nursing friend were discussing the great changes that have been made in the world of medicine.

Thelma told the following story.

“When I was a resident at Canterbury Hospital, a woman came into emergency one Saturday afternoon with an injured wrist.

“I took an X Ray, reduced the fracture, and then repeated the X Ray to check the position.

“I then plastered the wrist… and gave her a list of things to look for: e.g. a further appointment, swelling, and analgesics for pain.

“She looked at me as though she wanted to know something else, so I said, ‘Is everything OK?’ She looked up and said…’When do I get to see the Doctor?’”

Dr McKeon was for many years, the only lady Doctor practicing in the Shires of Bellingen and Coffs Harbour.

Throughout her long career, and an area of great proficiency, was her work in ‘Family Planning, Pregnancy, Midwifery, New Arrivals, Sexual Health and the wide expanse of Personal and Family Counselling.

It is nigh impossible to measure the extent and value she was to the citizens of the Mid North Coast.

With her obstetric skills she was not only so very capable, but much loved for her maternity and family work.

She described maternity medicine as ‘a different type of medicine’.

“It was taking patients through to a new stage of their lives – so very rewarding; that is…apart from the sadness that came, from time to time,” she said.

From the time she left University, Thelma lived her life ‘bearing the sorrows, the pains, and heartbreaks’ and bore them as ‘her life’.

Once she was asked, “What is your definition of a good person?”

Her reply?

“A good person is someone who puts others first.

“It’s ‘consideration’ for other people; never to question others beliefs and to respect others opinions.

“You must accept things in life!

“Change what you can, but accept what you can’t.”

This was Thelma McKeon!



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