Supporting colleagues through the worst of times

image of CSU staff member Kelly Bull

What do you do when a friend and colleague is experiencing the worst of times? CSU staff member Kelly Bull is leading a fundraising campaign for her colleague, Shane Sutherland, and her family.

In 2014, Shane’s 24-year-old son Pierce was diagnosed with retroperitoneal lymphangioma; large, invasive cystic masses in his abdomen. While in hospital to have these cysts drained, Pierce was also diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer.

Pierce’s condition soon snowballed and by mid-2015, he was battling cardiomyopathy, kidney obstruction and tumours throughout his abdomen, which were squashing his kidneys, liver, pancreas, stomach and lungs.

“I was with Shane from the very beginning of Pierce’s diagnosis. You can never anticipate the impact something like this can have on a family and you feel helpless watching it unfold,” Kelly said.

“It was hard to know what to say. I could sit and listen but couldn’t find the words to comfort. Unless you’ve been through something similar, you’re guessing at how they’re feeling.

“I quickly learnt that at the worst of times it is the smallest of gestures that make a difference. You need to pick up the phone, call in for a coffee and bring as much normality back to their lives as possible.”

Kelly rallied many other friends, family members and colleagues to form a fundraising committee.

“Even though Shane didn’t say anything I knew the bills must have been rolling in and I knew that if the situation was reversed, she would be doing all she could to help someone else. We’ve held a golf day, a clothing drive and a charity auction.

“I’ve been amazed at how willing people have been to help and donate money. It seems a lot of people were looking for an outlet to support the Sutherlands, a way to practically help and make a difference to their struggle.

“It’s like the fundraising committee, family and friends have become our own little family and a strong, united support network for the Sutherlands.”

With Pierce at home recovering, Shane has been able to return to work.

“I’m really happy to see Shane back at work,” Kelly said.

“It’s so great just to have her around again and to know that Pierce is back at home resting.”

However, the committee’s fundraising efforts will continue.

“There is still a long road ahead but we won’t stop until Pierce has recovered and his family have recovered,” Kelly said.

“I’m glad I found a way to help my friend and her family. I now understand the value in ‘paying it forward’. If there is one thing I would like others to take from this article, it’s the courage to take that first step with that niggling little idea.

“I know that when the Sutherlands have the opportunity, they’ll pay it forward to someone else in need – that’s just the kind of people they are.”

Kelly began working at CSU’s Bathurst Campus in 1989, and has worked in several different Division, dedicating much of her professional career to the web environment. Shane is also a long-serving IT staff member at CSU in Bathurst.

This Foundation Day, we’re celebrating the work CSU students, staff and alumni are doing in their communities, and how they’re living well in a world worth living in.

Yindyamarra Winhanganha: The wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in.