Author, Nurse, Teacher, Mother, and Grandmother
Science, history, romance and mystery merge together in this thriller, set in a world that Charles Darwin could never have imagined when he popularized the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’.
Ellen Hancock, raised in New Jersey, now lives and works in Melbourne. She survived the 2064 avian flu pandemic, but is unaware of her superior immune system. When a teenager is found dead in her home town and four others go missing, her childhood sweetheart Detective Patrick O’Connor investigates. Ellen is drawn into the mystery, along with her best friend’s daughter, AMDAT medical student Zoe. Zoe has something Daniel and Vaughn want: how far will they be prepared to go to get it?
I was born in 1956 in Sheffield, England. Back then, the city was renowned for its steel industry. Most cutlery was stamped ‘made in Sheffield,’ unlike today, they are most likely to be stamped anything other than that. My father Henry was a plumber and inventor. He loved problem-solving and was always seeking new opportunities. In 1962, spooked by the Cuban missile crisis, he accepted an offer of cheap passage to Australia. Our family settled in the small country town of Longford, Tasmania and Henry became the resident plumber.
So, my first transformation was from Yorkshire lass to Tassie kid. I still recall being asked to speak so people could listen to my Yorkshire accent. I also remember being called a “Pom” and not being invited to the birthday parties of children whose parents disliked migrants. My parents lived in Longford for the remainder of their lives.
I went on to attend a convent college. My favorite subject was science, especially biology. I had wanted to become a nurse, but my father (whose brother had died of diphtheria) discouraged me. A fully funded Bachelor of Education Degree with secure employment on completion sounded too good to pass up. Unfortunately, biology teaching was not available as a discrete subject, so one also had to study mathematics. Not wanting to teach math, I explored alternatives, eventually settling on home economics and a junior science degree. The career proved to be a misfit, yet, I continued teaching high school children to cook and sew for nine years.
Having excelled in the science side of my degree, I was offered a one-year fill-in position teaching food science at the University of Tasmania. That job lasted 9-years. During this time, I gained my Master’s degree in Education. Then in 1996, the restructuring of the University had them phasing out the course I taught. This was the opportunity to pursue the field of my dreams, nursing.
Off I went on my transformation from teacher to nurse. I managed to arrange the lectures I was required to teach around the nursing lectures I had to attend. It was a heady time, and with a husband and two children, something had to give, and sadly it was my marriage.
Then I met my current husband and moved to Hobart with my two sons. Despite a raft of qualifications, I found myself unemployed. After three months, when my finances were looking dire, I noticed an advertisement in the local paper. It was for a course studying advanced psychiatric nursing, including a paid job.
This job began a 16-year career as a psychiatric nurse at Royal Hobart Hospital, including 8-years as the Nurse Unit Manager. Managing an acute psychiatric ward was not easy. You can imagine that most patients do not want to be admitted and their relatives frequently have unrealistic expectations regarding their loved one’s recovery. Many doctors and nurses also found the work challenging and suffered from vicarious trauma.
After sixteen years, I needed a change and moved into the sphere of health safety and quality. During this time, I became interested in microorganisms. I found the subject fascinating. Scientists were struggling to control the ever-increasing number of antibiotic-resistant super bugs. One in three people died of infection before the discovery of antibiotics. Could humans face a similar dilemma in the future?
On a visit to England in 2010, I discovered the story of Elizabeth Hancock. Elizabeth lived in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire at the time of the black plague, 1665-66. Elizabeth’s story was unusual because she survived the plague when her family and hundreds of fellow villagers did not. I found myself wondering why. Scientists have now discovered that the descendants of Eyam plague survivors carry a higher proportion of a mutant gene (Delta 32) than the general population. Could Delta 32 be the reason behind Elizabeth’s survival? I wondered how the world would respond if a pandemic occurred today. I began to write. My transformation from nurse to the author had begun.
It took me five years to research and write GERMLINE. During my research, I came across an unusual true story. In New Jersey, in the late 1990s scientists had undertaken experiments to assist women with infertility issues. These experiments were effective but the methods used threatened to alter the human germline, so they were quickly banned.
In my plot, I merged aspects of both the Eyam and New Jersey stories. GERMLINE is a post-pandemic thriller set in 2074 Melbourne, Australia. Much of the science and technology used in the story is current or emerging. If it isn’t already here … it’s coming. Although GERMLINE is a fictional story set in the future, it contains many contemporary social issues. It is a curious hybrid of fact and fiction in which science, history, romance, and mystery all merge. GERMLINE was completed before Covid 19, yet the similarities are uncanny.
I am now retired, a grandmother of three, and unsure of my next transformation. Whatever my future holds, my life to date illustrates that everyone can achieve their goals if they are determined and willing to work hard. None of my transformations were easy, and each left a mark. When I think back to all I’ve accomplished I’m tired but I wouldn’t change it for anything. What is your transformation story?
Check out the latest inspiring story, “Reframe The Story” by Migdalia Rodriquez. ,