The passing of Eliza has been difficult for many at IOE, she has been a part of the community for over 16 years.

When everyone joined together to celebrate her life it was obvious the whole family had made some precious and longstanding connections with staff at IOE.

I introduced Tara Cantwell to Eliza when she was 18 months old, it is wonderful to see what started as a In Home shift developed into a friendship which was dear to both of them.

Tara has reflected and is happy to share a little snippet of their time together.  Belinda James

‘Like many Interchange Outer East connections, my relationship with Eliza has been filled with a lot of love and a healthy dose of nonsense. I was introduced to Eliza as her support worker, purely to play with the spunky 2 year old with a restrictive medical condition. Despite the comprehensive training to manage her medical needs, it immediately felt secondary to her personality. She was surprisingly wise, filled with cheek and displayed an unusually sharp sense of humor for a toddler. She also set the standards and boundaries of care and could be trusted to call the shots.

For the most part, the shifts were fun. We would drape our heads in kilometers of toilet paper, earnestly complementing each other on the luscious locks, we bought animals into the house to play, and spent hours immersed in our imaginations.

But some days and months were harder than others. Seeing her in pain, uncertainty about her health and seeing the family race to the hospital for yet more treatment. Those were the days you appreciated just how strong the Baird family unit were, as individuals and as a team.

Over the years, day shifts lead to a few overnight shifts, and some overnights lead to hosting. Eliza started spending time at my house and became a regular part of our family, and our friendship continued. During the next decade and as we matured (?!), our relationship changed and evolved with our interests. We started scrapbooking, we shared our time with my kids, sometimes did homework and all the while adapted to the many changes to Eliza’s health.

So it was with great sadness we learnt that Eliza had passed away, surrounded by her family on the 12th of December. Despite the ongoing complexities of Eliza’s health, her death has been a shock. We miss her laugh, her sass and kind heart.

Upon reflection about the role Interchange Outer East played in facilitating our friendship, I appreciate how Interchange provided a platform via education and encouragement, for support workers to listen to Eliza, respect her family and have the skills to meet her personal needs. As a result, I know there are many of Eliza’s support team who have created genuine bonds with Eliza, her family and others in her team.

Friendships are born in all sorts of circumstances and like many others, I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity to call Eliza a dear friend.’

by Tara Cantwell