The O'Brien's Story

I would like to introduce myself. Fiona O’Brien – Gloucester NSW.

I am writing to tell you about my husband Nathan O’Brien. A 45 year old carpenter. With a team of 3 apprentices – who works all over the Hunter.

Wednesday 26th March 2014 - Bonnells Bay. While Nathan was ordering a crane to lift roof trusses, He was unable to talk, he then fell on to the cement slab face first having a seizure. Our apprentices rang the ambulance, which took him to Wyong hospital. I was rung straight away @ my work. I checked in on our apprentices, organised our children (Brodie 16 & Neve 13), and then drove straight down to Wyong. The Emergency doctors there were fantastic. A CT scan was done straight away. Amazing Nathan had no facial fractures. The Doctors were not happy with the scan and with us living in Gloucester (160 kms away). They did not want him to be discharged and to organise an MRI scan ourselves. So he was admitted under observation & to have the MRI the following day.

Thursday 27th March - MRI showed a left frontal Anaplastic Oligodendroglima Tumour. He was then transferred straight to John Hunter Hospital.

Friday 28th March - Dr Hansen who was supposed to go on holidays. Saw Nathan’s file and postponed his holiday to operate on Nathan. When Nathan woke in recovery - 8pm. He did not ask to see me, but could he watch Friday Night Football. Speech & memory fine.

Saturday 29th – Neuro Ward. Drip out & showering himself.

Sunday 30th - Transferred to H3, Head & Neck Ward. Walking outside & watching Sunday afternoon Football with his son - Brodie.

Thursday 3rd April – Nathan was discharged from John Hunter. Waiting in hospital 6 days for the tumour results to come back. Because of the seizure Nathan was advised no driving for 3 months.

Monday 7th April - Nathan back to work to supervise the apprentices. Our apprentices took it in turn driving morning & afternoon. The guys were amazing. Of course Nathan was back on the tools within days.

16th April – Nathan met with his Oncology team @ the Mater. Waiting on test results if the Tumour had a certain gene. Gene = 24 weeks chemotherapy & then 5 weeks of radiation. (Possibly 15 years?). No gene = radiation only. (Possibly only 5 years?).

29th April – His tumour had the gene. Started chemo. Tablets & IV. With this tumour they can not say when or if it will reoccur. So MRI’s will now be a constant for the rest of Nathan’s life.

Over the years since we moved back to Gloucester. Nathan has coached Gloucester Junior League for 3 years. When there was no teams @ Gloucester, our son Brodie joined Wingham Junior League. Nathan has been League safe for Wingham, for the past 3 years. Then Feb 2014 he completed the FAO course. Also for many years he ran the side line for Gloucester Magpies Senior League.

Through his treatment as selfless & invincible as Nathan is, he still has been FAO for Wingham U16’s – Brodie’s team. Only missing a few games. Also Nathan has helped raise money for Curtis Landers (Road to Recovery Appeal). Who you would know, occurred a spinal injury playing for Forster U15’s Rugby League. Nathan & Brodie have been down to visit Curtis in Westmead Children’s Hospital. Nathan coached Curtis for 3 years when he played for Gloucester Junior League. Curtis moved to Forster 3 years ago. But still has family here in Gloucester.

Sorry Mark, Nathan is a Bulldog through & through.

Tuesday 22nd July. I was driving from Gloucester to Heddon Greta, to pick up Nathan from his current work site. Taking him to the Mater for Chemo IV treatment. (Starting round 3). I heard on the radio about your Foundation and the Brain Cancer Awareness Week – Mon 28th July > 1st August.

Gloucester Magpies Senior Rugby League told Nathan they donated $3000 to your foundation on his behalf. Because of his help and sponsorship to the club over the years. That got my thinking. Why not ask the building business we associate with in the Hunter, to donate. So emails were sent out the next day. Within an hour, small business such as Hunter Wide Cranes replied, yes. Last Friday, Hudson Homes said they were on board. Still waiting on Coral Homes. I do not know how much they are donating. I am so very grateful that they are. Nathan does not know I have done this. He always helps others before helping himself, without any praise & acknowledgement.

So much is still unknown about Brain Cancer. With so many types, that means different preventions & treatments. It is a shame over the years the Cancer Council has seemed to only have focused on common cancers, not rare ones. So now amazing people like you & your wife have to start a foundation for extra awareness of Brain Cancer.

Nathan is so positive, he won’t let cancer get the best of him. I will be stuck with him for many years to come. (Married 20 years). The best thing about Nathan’s tumour was that it happened so suddenly, not giving us time to dwell on the negative. As Nathan said to Dr Hasen, “Let’s get this bloody thing out”.

The Gloucester community have been amazing. People offering to help us if needed. Gloucester High supporting Brodie & Neve through all of this. Nathan’s major concern was for our apprentices. Who could not work if not supervised? They will be all qualified by January 2015. But everything worked out well. Our son Brodie, comes on board as a school based apprentice before the end of this year.

From Nathan & myself, congratulations on what you are doing. We hope your future remains tumour free.


Written by Fiona (Nathan's wife)


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