It takes a special person to be a nurse, and someone even more special to manage a house full of families that have children with chronic illnesses or life limiting illnesses.
Virginia Adlide OAM, is one of those people.
Trained as a nurse and then as a mid-wife in the 1960s, Ms Adlide credits her love of children for her passion and interest in nursing, as well as her own mum who was a nurse.
"I just loved kids," she said.
"It was as simple as that and my mother had been a nurse."
"You have to be cut out for nursing. In my day we basically learned on the job: attending lectures, carrying out procedures on the wards while applying the knowledge we were being taught."
However, her nursing aspirations were put on hold for 12 years after she married her first husband and became an instant step mum, and a mother to her own son Rory.
In the midst of her divorce and looking for work after a six month stint in the United Kingdom, Ms Adlide was blessed with an opportunity in 1983 to manage the Ronald McDonald House in Camperdown near the Children's Hospital.
"Arriving back in Sydney I needed a job and a school for Rory. I took myself up to King George V Hospital in Camperdown which is where I did midwifery and subsequently managed a new post-natal ward from 1970-71. However, in mid 1983 night duty or shift work was all that was available. I needed hours that fitted in with a 10 year old school child," she said.
"I basically wanted a 9am - 3pm job but the director of nursing there suggested that I walk down the road to the Children's Hospital where I originally trained.
"As I approached the entrance to the grounds there, and on the front steps of the hospital, I was relieved to see one of the doctors I knew. He called out to me, 'What are you doing here?'. It was a huge welcome. I told him I was looking for a job.
"He took me straight to the Director of Nursing's office and left me there. She and I remembered each other: she had been in charge of newborn sick babies and when we worked together in this ward years earlier.
"I explained my situation and asked if she had any 9-3 positions available; she told me those positions were all taken.
"Then she said to me, 'I don't know if you'd be interested, it's not a nursing position as such, but it might just suit your domestic arrangements. Have you heard of Ronald McDonald House?'
"I said 'no' and she told me that they had re-advertised the manager's position and the interviews were on that very afternoon. She said there had been a cancellation."
The rest as they say is history as Ms Adlide was offered the job after she was interviewed by a panel of hospital people.
With her son Rory in toe, Ms Adlide moved behind the Victorian building and became the first person to manage the Ronald McDonald House full time.
The house accommodated 11 families and had a large multi-purpose kitchen.
"People could cook their own meals and sometimes groups from the country would cook meals and bring them in a frozen state," she said.
"That was so generous.
"There was a community laundry and that's where they'd hang about and talk while they'd wait for their washing to go through.
"Our Golden Retriever Timmy provided much comfort."
While her role was officially to manage the house, Ms Adlide did so much more for the families and children who would stay at the Ronald McDonald House. She was well supported by the Oncology Unit.
However, the role wasn't always easy and was often bittersweet.
"I had a fair bit of background about really sick kids and I was really there to support parents," she said.
"You support the kids but also the family. You tune in but you don't take over, you just listen.
"I'd come home at the end of the day and often I would often flop on the lounge. My son and I would start watching something even slightly sad and I wouldn't be able to stop crying.
"On a personal basis it helped me because I was going through a divorce so my problems were nothing compared to what these families were going through.
"After a child dies, the parents would return to the country. It was always important for them to come back, to walk the walk and be where they had been with their child. I always invited them to stay at Ronald McDonald House.
"It was incredibly special."
In 1989, Ms Adlide said farewell to Ronald McDonald House and moved in with her second husband-to-be, John Adlide. In a voluntary capacity John was in charge of establishing the Prince of Wales Children's Hospital's Ronald McDonald House (POWCH House).
"My background was very useful and we worked together on that project; at the same time I was learning the management side of John's business," she said.
"John had a McDonald's franchise at Bondi Junction and I was often involved in supporting the crew and their training."
Her time as the manageress at Ronald McDonald House is still close to her heart as she recalls children and their families. It is evident that Ms Adlide is also still close to the hearts of many former patients and families as they continue to correspond with her.
"Truly, it was the best job I ever had. I keep in contact with many of the families, it's lovely." she said.
"There are so many memories."
Ms Adlide was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 1993 Queen's birthday honours list, having been nominated by the families she helped in her time at Ronald McDonald House (1983-89). She recalls how she had earlier received a letter from Canberra, out of the blue, and quickly closed it in disbelief.
"I just burst into tears. After all, it was the families that deserved any medals," she said.
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