Maureen is still looking for a change of heart
Maureen Wood wonders what it will take for her to walk down the street and not have people poke fun at her daughter Jackie.
Or for hospital staff to not automatically assume she wants a not-for-resuscitation order for her.
Maureen, 83, has campaigned for more than 60 years for her eldest daughter, who was born with Down syndrome and autism, and for others with intellectual disabilities.
She acknowledges there is a long way to go, but Maureen has always been ready to make that change happen. Her lifetime of campaigning was acknowledged this year when she was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for services to people with disabilities.
When Jackie was born Karitane nurses advised Maureen to put her into an institution. Maureen said no. “After all these years, it still rankles.” Last year, when Jackie was admitted to hospital with flu, staff asked if Maureen wanted a not-for-resuscitation order. Maureen said no. “She wasn’t at the stage that she was dying; she had the flu. It was just because she had a disability,” she says.
“How long do you have to keep fighting the system?” Maureen worries that because a disabled person is in a residential home people assume their lives are somehow of less value.
“I am not sure why we are having the End of Life Choice Bill. Maybe there is a need for it for people who are in real bad pain.”
She is disappointed when people can’t see past the disability. “The last time I had Jackie out, when she could still walk, two little boys were making funny faces and their fathers were egging them on.”
Jackie is now 62 and for many years has lived in residential services operated by IHC, then IDEA Services.
Maureen joined IHC in 1961, was President of the West Auckland Branch for 23 years and has been their Association Chair since 2016. She was a member of the IHC New Zealand Council from 1985 to 2008. She lobbied for psychiatric and psychopaedic institutions to be closed in the 1980s and 1990s, including Carrington Hospital.
She has also worked to make sure the community has a voice in the development of local health services. She chaired Waitakere Health Link from 2000 to 2019 and was the Health West Primary Health Organisation community representative for eight years.
Her husband, Ted, died when he was 50, leaving her with five children to support and at 48 too young for a widow’s benefit.
“I have worked hard, but nobody can do it on their own. I have good family support and good support within IHC. I will always be part of the place until they tell me to go.”
Above: Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy presents Maureen Wood with her award.