Walsh, Diane Margaret Interview

I’m interviewing Diane Walsh who lives at Taradale, Napier. The date today is the 16th January 2018; she will explain to you about being a midwife, and midwifery.

I’m a Registered Nurse/Midwife.

And she is also an amputee for [from] the Civilian Amputees’ Association.

It’s not called that any more.

No, it’s changed its name. I’ll leave it over to you, Diane, to tell us about it.

Okay. If I talk about being part of the Amputee Society of Hawke’s Bay and East Coast first – I’ve been an amputee since 2011 which came about due to a life threatening infection. Since being an amputee, I became involved with the Amputee Society, on the committee to start off with. That was the very first meeting I ever went to; [it] was an AGM, [Annual General Meeting] and I was immediately nominated and elected to the committee before I even knew what was happening to me, really. So I went pretty much straight away from being nominated and elected on to the committee to being the next year, the vice president; and the year after that, elected as president. The same year as I was elected to the president’s role I was also appointed to the New Zealand Federation of Amputees, so for that reason became quite heavily involved.

You were thrown in at the deep end really.

Yes – well anyone who comes along who has any potential always is, if people have some skills – you find that as a potential volunteer you’re quite valuable, so that’s what happened. And so I’ve worked along for the Amputee Society in various roles ever since then, and now looking at an AGM coming up where I plan to stand down. So that will’ve been my voluntary gift to the Society, and to the amputees of Hawke’s Bay and East Coast.

How many amputees currently?

How many amputees are there, or how many amputee members do we have?

Well both, actually.

When I first took over as the president of the Society we had forty-four financial members. We now have over a hundred and in actual fact we doubled our membership in the first year that I was president. But what coincided with me becoming president … just to hasten to say that I can’t take all the credit for the increase in membership … is that we got a field officer.

That made a huge difference?

Well yes. And that was actually one of my projects, was to get the field officer functioning, and we were very fortunate in the person that we appointed.

Geoff Hansen was the first ..?

Yeah. He was the first one. We were the first amputee society in the country to have a paid field officer – I can’t speak for what happened before I was involved ‘cause I don’t know, but certainly in the time that I’ve been involved. And yes, we’ve had our paid field officer, and for a length of time. And I’m not sure if it still is the case, but Hawke’s Bay and East Coast has been the largest amputee society in the North Island, and third largest in the country, which is pretty amazing for a small provincial area when we’ve got the likes of Auckland and Wellington. That could’ve changed now, I’m not sure, but we’ll find out at the national AGM which is coming up, what other societies are doing.

I believe that you’ve focused on visiting and keeping up to date with people and that’s been a major thing. How many visits, phone calls and things would you have had to make over a month?

Oh – yeah, I make phone calls part of my regular week, and phone particularly older members who don’t get out very much, or people who I know are unwell. But having said that, our membership is getting to be higher now and there would be members who I’ve only ever spoken to on the phone; I’ve not met them, especially if they don’t come to meetings or functions. But I certainly know that our field officer’s been in touch with them and been to see them. But my visits and phone calls to members really just picks up the surplus that Geoff can’t manage – our field officer. He doesn’t have enough hours in a month to go and visit everybody, so people who require extra time and attention tend to be the ones that I pick up, and just ring them for a chat and attend to anything that needs doing.

How have you found getting funding each year to pay for the field officer?

Well, that is always a cause for minor anxiety. So far we haven’t had a problem.

And would you get funding from two places perhaps?

Two or three.

And they go from a year to year?

Year to year.

So you haven’t got a long term one?

No, unfortunately not. It would be really nice if we did. Yes.

And can you talk a little bit about the functions over the last few years?

When I first came into the Society on the committee. there were one or two functions total for the year, and one of my first decisions was that we were going to have a function every second month. Regardless of what it was, we were going to do something that got members together; and we’ve stuck to that. So every second month there’s something going on, whether it’s a luncheon, or … we’ve had the soup and sweets thing that we did. Yeah, we’ve had a lot of fun over the time.

And the lunches and dinners, and quizzes …

Yes – we’ve had quiz nights, we’ve had sausage sizzles. But those things like quiz nights and sausage sizzles, we tend to do that in addition to our regular lunches and things, because there are some people who like just that – going out for lunch. And there are some people in the Society who never go to anything, but that’s how they want it to be.

Can you talk a little bit about going to Wellington, you know, for limb fitting? I’m talking as an amputee myself … going to Wellington for repairs and things?

Well, we don’t have a regional artificial limb service here, so people in Hawke’s Bay – Napier downwards, I think – have to go to Wellington for their orthotic service or for the initial fitting and ongoing repairs to that. It would seem that that is how it’s cost effective for the government; and also addressing the fact that there’s not an over-abundance of qualified orthotists in the country. However, amputees to a certain extent have a choice [of] what centre they go to; so if amputees want to go somewhere else or are not comfortable with being seen in Wellington, then they can negotiate to go to a different centre.

In Auckland?


Or Christchurch or Dunedin?

Yes, Christchurch, Dunedin.

And do most amputees have to go through WINZ [Work & Income New Zealand] to get their transport down and back?

Well it depends on whether or not they’re under the care of ACC [Accident compensation Commission]; and New Zealand-wide there’s those two streams of funding for amputation care or artificial limb care. One is the Ministry of Health and the other is ACC, so depending on what caused you to become an amputee … acquire an amputation … whether it was an accident or an illness or deformity, then that denotes what kind of funding you get.

If you give birth you’re offered your afterbirth back; now when your limb is amputated, does that happen? Do you know, with limbs?

Well, you can certainly ask for your body part back. I don’t think most people would be offered it, however, I have heard recently that people have been offered their limb back. My family was certainly offered mine; and I lost my limb – ‘cause I was unconscious, it had nothing to do with me – from my illness, and they declined, but they certainly were given the option. And that was in 2011.

So that’s been going for quite a while?

It’s been going for quite a while. I think culturally within New Zealand people have become aware of the whole concept of being given your body parts back, and I think that’s partially because of the afterbirth being offered back, or requested back, ‘cause it’s a body tissue.

Do you think we should have a clothing allowance? Has there been any mention of that?

No, there’s been no discussion.

So we’ll now go into the midwifery … your life. Were you born here?

No, I wasn’t. I was born in 1950 in Auckland, and I grew up in Auckland. And when I was sixteen and a half I heard from a girlfriend about a kind of nursing that you could go into when you were sixteen and a half; you didn’t have to wait ‘til you were eighteen, so I immediately applied for that. It was called Community Nursing and it was an eighteen month course, so I applied for that and was accepted. And the big attraction of that was that I was allowed to leave home as long as I was living in a Nurses’ Home where they thought I’d be safe and protected from all mischief; I could leave home and go and live there. So that was my main reason for wanting to go nursing.

So I went nursing, and I must say that I didn’t like it very much, and nursing didn’t like me very much either because I had quite a bit to say about things; particularly about the way the elderly patients were looked after and cared for. I didn’t like it and I was very loud about it, so I left. However, when I had perhaps grown up a little bit and had two children of my own, I went back and started again, and this time I was working in National Women’s Hospital, still in Auckland, and completed my training there.

That would be a three year course?

No, no, it was an eighteen month course … Community Nursing was an eighteen month course. But I’m coming to that. We shifted – my first husband and my two children and my one baby on the way – shifted to Hawke’s Bay at the beginning of 1978, and I had my third baby here at Hastings Hospital. Do you want to know all this, Erica?

Yes, because it’s for your children and your grandchildren to come.

Well, we came to live in Hawke’s Bay … in Hastings, in Williams Street, in a little cottage that we could afford, because coming from Auckland we you know, sort of had a home there. And so we lived in that little house ‘til 1983 when my marriage ended, and I went and lived with my children in another house in Hastings and went off to the Hawke’s Bay Polytechnic – it was called Taradale Community College in those days – and I undertook the three year training to be a registered nurse.

And the main point was you could still look after your children as well as doing your training?

Yes. So that’s what I did, and completed that and started working in Hastings Hospital in 1988. So in 1990 I went off to Wellington with one of my children – the other two had gone to university by that stage – and did my midwifery training in Wellington. I did an Advanced Diploma in Nursing at the same time, so I came back with an Advanced Diploma in Nursing and my midwifery qualification, and set to work at the Hastings Hospital in the Maternity department, as a midwife.

So were you going out delivering babies at home?

No. I was very interested in home birth, and I did a few home births, but they were done privately … as private cases, not anything to do with the hospital. And yes, I was just working in the hospital, mainly in delivery; but I also spent a couple of years working in the Special Care Baby Unit, which is the intensive care unit for bubbies.

Premature babies and babies with difficulties of some sort?

That’s right, yeah.

Did that go until 2011?

Yeah, I was still working. I worked in a variety of roles in all of the areas and departments of the maternity unit.

How many beds did it have then?

I don’t know.

Would it be twenty?

Oh, more than that – forty. Well, there were two … there was a postnatal ward and there was an antenatal ward, and then there was the delivery unit, so easily forty.

Forty, possibly sixty?

Possibly, but I don’t know; I don’t remember now. And I did things ranging from Acting Charge Nurse in the wards to Community Midwife, going out in the community looking after postnatal mothers after they’d had their babies.

Was that instead of a Plunket nurse?

No. It was for the first six weeks after the baby was born, and then we handed over to Plunket. Right back when I first started there was the two choices; you could have Plunket, or … it wasn’t District Health, what were they? Public Health Nurses. But also in 1990 when I did my midwifery training … in fact I was in Parliament to listen to quite a lot of it … the maternity system in New Zealand changed, and midwives became autonomous. So midwives were able to look after normal pregnant women under their own authority.

Did you think that was a good move? In Hastings was that a good move?


So they could be looked after from the time they first became pregnant; and the GP [General Practitioner] would give them the list, I understand, of the midwives in that area?

Well some GPs did, and some GPs didn’t. They kind of felt that it wasn’t a good idea, but … well, women chose what they wanted.

So you’re Walsh now; were you Walsh then?

I remarried in 2010. I remarried in November on my sixtieth birthday, and that was my husband’s choice so that he only had one date to remember. [Chuckle] And then I was ready to go back to work, but I had some surgery on my ankle which had been injured, and got an infection. That’s the short story; got the infection in 2011 and have never been back to work since.

How long were you actually in hospital in 2011?

Seven weeks. Oh, actually, hang on – no, six weeks I was. There was no … and I’ve read my notes; I’ve had my notes from the hospital and read them. There was no chance of saving it. It had to go because it was killing me.

I just wanted to make sure the name was correct; when you married again you became Diane Walsh, and before that you’d been ..?

Diane Moran. [Spells] And that’s what I would’ve been known as at the hospital.

Did any of your children follow in your steps of being involved with nursing or otherwise or doctoring or anything?

Well, two of my children are involved in the health sector. One of them’s a midwife; she lives in Wellington. And the other one’s in a different field; she’s a psychologist.

I always think it’s interesting to know if the children follow their parents.

Very surprising – I would never’ve thought that that would happen, but my daughter decided that she wanted to do it.

So you’ve had five years virtually, or six years as President, and it’s time to …

Time to move.

move. And have you got anything else in mind?

Well I run a little charity that I’ve formed called ‘Cosy Kids’, and its objective is to provide warm winter clothing for the babies and children in Hawke’s Bay who haven’t got enough. In Hawke’s Bay we’ve got sick children every winter with chest infections, and pneumonia, and bronchialitis; the ward’s full of them, and a lot of it stems from the fact that they’re living in houses that aren’t warm enough.

And this is ..?

The whole of the Bay. And I get referrals from midwives and other health professionals who go in and see the children; and they ring me or contact me and ask for whatever they need for the babies. My whole objective is to do this with dignity so that the parents, or the mummies, don’t feel as though they’re being given charity. They feel like they’re being given a gift. So they get a lot of beautiful new things. I provide knitting wool – I’ve got a whole lot of knitters on the go – and I provide them with wool so that the babies get proper wool and not acrylic.

Which is not good for them …

No. So that’s one thing that I’m doing, is Cosy Kids.

Have you come across Gaby Allen?


She got six thousand pairs of pyjamas this last year.

I know all about that. She’s clever.

And that’s going to be your main target?

Maybe. Well it is, but I’ve got other things to do as well. I’m into my crafts, and …

You keep working; keep doing things?

Oh, definitely.

Anything else you’d like to add about different interests?

I’m into art … the arts.

For painting?

No, paper craft, you know, like card making and that sort of thing.

You’d still be a member of the Association?

Oh, I’d be a member, definitely. But I don’t want to be in any roles any more ‘cause I think we’ve done a good job, but it’s time for somebody else to have a go now.

I’m going to say thank you to Diane for giving us an update of her very full life, and she’s still branching off into different things, which is very important.

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Interviewer:  Erica Tenquist

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