Maher and his late wife Margarite always appreciated their daily welfare phone call from Red Cross. The couple learned firsthand just how important the calls are when they faced a medical emergency. Now Maher is a widower, the calls are still an important part of his day and help the 94-year-old remain independent in his own home.
Maher and Margarite fled their home in Cairo, Egypt during the 'Six Day War' in 1967. They sought asylum with the Australian embassy and moved here with their five children in 1968. They settled in Sydney and raised their family there, before retiring to Queensland. They loved their new home but it was far away from their family whose busy lives meant they could only call occasionally.
"We lost this son in a car accident," says Maher, gesturing towards a picture of his son. "Then there are three in Sydney and one in Corowa. So the four in NSW. I don't get calls from the family very often - it could be once a month."
A call each day to check you're ok
In recent years Margarite became unwell. Complications from her diabetes led to kidney failure, requiring dialysis four days a week. Maher was her sole carer. In 2007 Maher had his own health problems and was advised to sign up to receive a daily call from Red Cross to check on their welfare. Maher was concerned that if something should happen to him, Margarite may not be able raise the alarm or may become unwell herself before anyone realised.
Knowing he will be contacted everyday helps Maher to remain living in familiar surrounds and if anything should happen to him he will not be forgotten.
Maher found great comfort getting the calls each morning, knowing that someone cared about him and Margarite and that if anything should happen to them, Red Cross would raise the alarm. "There's someone there, that's how I feel," says Maher about the feeling he gets when his call arrives each morning. "And some of them, we have a long chat - two minutes, three minutes, sometimes. Lucky we didn't have any complaints before, until that day came. It was unbelievable."
Support during an emergency
One morning last year, the daily phone call arrived at the just the right moment. Margarite had a health complication caused by her diabetes and was loosing consciousness. As this was happening the call came through from Red Cross. Maher explained his situation and the caller arranged an ambulance.
"I felt, it's a miracle," says Maher. "Help came in from nowhere. I was all by myself, what can I do?"
Knowing someone cares
Although Margarite recovered from this incident, her health complications continued to get worse and she passed away late last year. The pain for Maher is still very raw and he feels very lonely at times.
"To see her dying, it was terrible," says Maher through his tears. "I can't believe it. I can't believe she's gone."
Now he is on his own, Maher's morning call is just as important. Knowing he will be contacted everyday helps Maher to remain living in familiar surrounds and if anything should happen to him he will not be forgotten. "Not dying at home, like the people, they find them three, four days at home," says Maher. "It's terrible. It's terrible."
The calls are also a vital human connection that he has every day. "I feel I belong to something," says Maher. "I'm not alone. Some person or some people are with me. As I said, I don't get calls from the family very often but I get calls from these people daily. It's very useful, very useful."
For more information visit the Telecross page.
If you would like to use the Telecross service, call 1300 885 698.
If you would like to become a Telecross volunteer, check for available volunteer opportunities in your state or territory.