Wife’s hard work is a labour of love for Bendigo councillor's spouse

A CAR pulls up and its driver is outside within seconds, running towards the back.

She opens the door, pulls down a ramp and waits for the second occupant to disembark.

She runs back to the front of the car, quickly returning to brush the hair of the man who has emerged from the back of the vehicle.

Within seconds he zips away. She runs back, locks the car and runs off into the distance behind the man in the electric wheelchair.

It is scenes like this that has earned Alison Campbell the nickname “the Energiser bunny”.

Her life changed overnight almost two years ago.

The grade two teacher would put a sudden halt on her lifelong career and set forward on a journey to help her husband, City of Greater Bendigo councillor Rod Campbell, recover from a cruel condition that left him paralysed and on a ventilator.

For more than six months she would visit her husband in the intensive care ward, a place most only stay for four days.

She would pry open his eyes to check to see if he was still trapped inside his lifeless frame.

“We had no idea what would happen, no prognosis. When he was totally paralysed people just shook their heads,” Alison said.

“Every step is a wonder. Rod continues to improve every month. There is more that is needed but everything takes time.”

Alison and Rod Campbell have been married 39 years.

They work seamlessly together, finishing each other’s sentences and freely offer praise for one another.

Alison has barely slept a full night since Rod received his second Guillain-Barre syndrome diagnosis.

The Eppalock ward councillor struggles to sleep and is unable to move his body. Alison sets an alarm for the very early hours of the morning to roll her husband onto his other side.

The couple’s day formally starts about 6.30am. Alison potters around the house preparing for a health worker to arrive.

She will spend the rest of the day managing an array of tasks. 

Tending to her husband, while a full-time commitment alone, is just half of what she does each day.

Dressing, feeding, driving, scrolling the computer screen, answering calls, checking emails, assisting his rehabilitation, turning pages are all daily tasks.

She sits alongside her husband at his official duties, taking his notes, turning on his microphone and ensuring he is best placed to do his job.

They have transformed their sun-lit and open kitchen into a contemporary office.

A computer sits in one corner, a rehab bicycle in another, with municipality maps across the kitchen-long table.

“We have always got something positive to look to,” she said. 

“Council keeps Rod productive. We love this city. We have got lots of positives to look to. You have got to embrace life and look forward and realise how lucky you are. 

“It is hard work but it has been rewarding as well. It is rewarding to see Rod thriving – that is my biggest reward.”

Lucky is a phrase both Rod and Alison use in abundance.

But the facts of Rod’s condition couldn’t offer a more stark contrast.

Doctors first diagnosed Rod with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which affects the peripheral nerves and in severe cases the respiratory muscles, after being elected to council in 2008. 

He recovered, returned to council, became mayor and later relapsed in 2010.

The condition has a 2 per cent chance of reoccurrence.

The preciousness of life was reinforced to Rod while he lay paralysed in hospital. 

“I saw a lot of curtains get closed and families walking away in tears. I would just feel for those people,” he says.

Alison says she has been overwhelmed with the support she has received from the community.

She glows as she talks about the anonymous knitted socks and gloves that have arrived in the mail.

Alison talks about life in milestones. 

It’s the same way she talks about her husband’s recovery. 

Week by week he makes improvements. 

His grip gets ever tighter, feeling in his toes ever stronger.

“There is always more you can do,” she says.

“We are both driven people. You just refuse to stop and consider the alternative and not give yourself the chance to say what now? 

“We always have something positive to look to in our lives. 

“You do what you have got to do. You don’t make excuses, you get on with it.”

It’s a love for her husband and a belief in his work that keeps Alison Campbell motivated. 

It’s what gets her through the middle of the night alarms. 

It’s what gives her energy to keep pushing forward. 

It’s why she will be alongside her husband as he seeks another term on council.

“Everything is character building. Sometimes I get tired and frustrated but then you pick yourself up and keep going. We are so lucky,” she says.

“To get from hospital to home was a big step. 

“Hospital is not good for your mind, body and soul. 

“The main thing is I just want Rod to embrace life. 

“(Council) is what he loves and I want to support him to ensure he can thrive.”

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