October 20, 2002 Sunday
By Greg Prichard
Sun Herald (Sydney)
Betty Cuthbert's spirits have been lifted by a massive outpouring of support for the former golden girl of athletics as she battles to recover from a brain haemorrhage in hospital.
Cuthbert, who was hospitalised on September 25, was transferred from the Royal Perth Hospital to the Peel Campus Hospital in Mandurah, south of Perth, on Wednesday.
Her friend and carer, Rhonda Gillam, said the move was made to bring Cuthbert closer to home and to put her under the care of her own doctor. Gillam said Cuthbert, 64, had been left feeling very tired and nauseous following repeated surgical procedures to ease the pressure on her brain by draining fluid from around it.
"Betty has had five anaesthetics in a fortnight," Gillam told The Sun-Herald. "She has had to have four drains inserted in her head and they needed to put a shunt in as well, to help drain the fluid.
"All of that anaesthetic has made her feel quite ill, but she is an amazing woman. She is conscious and she can talk, but not for long. She gets very tired, but through all of that she's still very positive.
"Her condition hasn't changed much since she entered hospital, but it's not a life-threatening situation. It's just going to take her a while to get over it. The doctors say it's going to be a long haul, but we're hoping it's not going to be so long."
Gillam said the legendary athlete, who has fought a long battle with multiple sclerosis, had received about 500 letters from well-wishers, as well as loads of flowers. Cuthbert won Olympic gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at Melbourne in 1956 and in the 400m at Tokyo in 1964.
But the thing that struck Gillam was that, although it had been 38 years since Cuthbert strode the world stage, a lot of the letters had come from children.
Despite her plight, Cuthbert certainly hasn't become self-absorbed.
"We were watching a report on the Bali disaster and Betty was horrified,"
Gillam said. "She felt so badly for the people who were suffering that
she began to cry."
© Copyright 2002 John Fairfax Publications Pty Ltd