A midwife who loved to share her skills and passion

Kathryn Anne Sheppard
15 February 1962–15 June 2010

Kathy tragically lost her life in a light plane crash near Sydney on Monday 15 June 2010. Head nurse/midwife for Wingaway, an aeromedical patient transport firm, Kathy was en route to Brisbane undertaking a routine transfer.

Kathy also worked as a midwife at Port Macquarie Base Hospital.

Kathy was a daughter, sister, partner, mother, midwife, nurse, awesome soccer player and our friend.

Kathy’s many loves included her four girls: Rachel, Nichola-Kate, Stephanie and Erin, their father Glenn Sheppard, her partner Ron O’Brien, her extended family and, of course, us.

She loved soccer, flying and midwifery, caring for women and their families, helping to bring new life into the world, as well as the many other patients she cared for.

Kathy was one of the Sheppard ‘girls’ who were the stars of our soccer team Midwives and Mayhem. Despite the majority of the team having little or no soccer skills we managed to bamboozle the opposition and win the six-a-side Women’s B grade final in 2001!

Kathy’s love of flying saw her work as a flight nurse for Wingaway for approximately 10 years. This included the back transfer of babies and mothers to Port Macquarie Base Hospital from a tertiary hospital following either premature birth or illness requiring neonatal intensive care – this was Kathy’s favourite ‘transfer job’.

Kathy worked as a midwife at the Hastings District Hospital and then at Port Macquarie Base Hospital since its opening in 1994.

Kathy, Glenn Sheppard and their dear friend Rae Condon attended many local women and their families for homebirths. Kathy was an amazing midwife, with excellent intuition and safe skills. Kathy saw birth as a miracle, a privilege to be part of, and her care of so many families will last a lifetime, regardless of where or how long ago that baby was born. There are families across the districts that are grieving the loss of ‘their’ midwife, who was so very special to them; she helped bring their precious baby safely into the world, something they will treasure forever.

One of Kathy’s greatest attributes was her willingness to share her knowledge and love of midwifery to those around her. She was one of the most inspirational midwives at Port Macquarie Base Hospital, always having time for midwifery students, medical students or anyone interested in learning her skills. Her belief in a woman’s ability to birth her baby left women feeling confident in their own ability, yet reassured that Kathy was always alert for early signs that may indicate medical assistance was required. Her passion to provide holistic care to women and their families was unsurpassed.

Kathy’s skills as a midwife commanded the utmost respect from all who worked with her: midwives, obstetricians and paediatricians alike.

She loved her friends and was always bright and bubbly, a joy to work with. Kathy, had a wicked sense of humour and was the instigator of many practical jokes, including glad wrap over the loo and confetti above the doorway! She certainly made working night duty bearable.

Kathy was the person you wanted to work with – when there was time to have fun, but also when there were emergencies. Her calm, level head was always reassuring in a crisis.

Kathy was a kind, caring, compassionate person who would do whatever she could, whenever she could. She was respected and admired for her genuine nature and outstanding skills as a midwife. She was a wonderful human being who loved life, and those people whose lives she touched loved her in return. Her vivacious smile, contagious laugh, sunny disposition and willingness to help made her loved by all – family, colleagues, friends, administration, doctors, ancillary staff and, of course, the families and patients she cared for.

Friends and families from across Australia are joined in their grief and sorrow with the sudden and tragic loss of Kathy’s life.

To Kathy: we thank you for your unconditional love, your wonderful sense of humour, your warmth, your inspiration, and your friendship. It has been a privilege to work with you and we have been truly blessed to be part of your life. We will miss you desperately. You will always live on in our hearts.

As a legacy to Kathy a scholarship fund has been established by the staff of Port Macquarie Base Hospital. The aim of the fund will be to promote Midwifery Education within our unit. Please contact Louise Harper at Louise.Harper@ncahs.health.nsw.gov.au for information.

By Louise Harper, on behalf of Kathy’s friends and colleagues from Port Macquarie Base Hospital and surrounds.