Feature Story | John Fox

We shared John’s story in our Quality Care Calendar, and share it again here for those who may have missed it.

John Fox spent his whole life helping other people. When he needed support though, asking for it didn’t come so naturally. Thankfully, the karma train was true to form and the community wrapped its collective arms around him.

This is his story…

John Fox

Two years ago, at the age of 65, John Fox’s world was unrecognisable. He remembers trying to drive to the Terang trots – only to get to the end of his street and having to turn around.

Gripped by severe depression and anxiety, the well-known Timboon identity was a prisoner in his own thoughts. Unable to do the things he’d loved doing for decades, John was forced to withdraw to his family home.

“I lost some people – family and friends. I didn’t feel right. Getting out of bed was…I just didn’t want to get out of bed. It was horrible,” he said.

Enter his case worker – enrolled nurse Fiona Hanel.

“Fiona was fantastic – extraordinary,” John’s sister Dr Jane Russell said.

“The level of responsibility she was prepared to take for John’s care and the level of engagement she had with John was quite simply amazing.

“John had severe depression – he wasn’t just a little bit sad. He was very ill.”

John lived in the family home in Timboon his whole life. His late father Dr Peter Fox was for a long time, the only GP in the town.

Jane said as their parents aged, John became their in-home carer and he loved that role and responsibility.

“He took amazing care of mum and dad. As they got older and more frail, he was the reason they were able to stay at home,” she said

“When they passed away that left a huge hole in John’s life. Some of John’s other friends passed away as well and life really changed for him.

“It’s difficult looking back. No one really saw how much he was struggling and he isn’t a complainer, so that meant what he was going through went largely unnoticed for some time.”

John said Jane had picked up on his struggles and he had been down to Melbourne a few times to stay with her and be closer to her.
“I don’t really remember a lot of that time. Jane was great, but I also want to be home here in Timboon.”

John’s mental health deteriorated rapidly and he was soon hospitalised “off and on for three weeks at a time”.

Jane said, of all places, she was in Greenland when John became very unwell.

“Communication in Greenland was very poor and that was very hard. The team at Timboon were wonderful though and when I got home John was in hospital and at his lowest. It was a very difficult time,” she said.

“He spent weeks with us in Melbourne as well, but there was a time in his recovery when we all thought it was best for him to come home to Timboon and continue to get well there.

“One of the best things that happened was getting him out of our big, empty family home and into one of the magnificent units at Abbeyfield Timboon.

“To have that sort of aged care facility available in Timboon helped that transition enormously. Timboon Abbeyfield is another example of what small towns can achieve to help people stay in their own community.”

With Fiona’s constant care and case work, John slowly but surely turned the corner and began to re-enter the community life he had always loved.

“I feel good again and that’s nice. Fiona has been important for me and I still see her and we keep me going,” he quipped.

John’s love of harness racing is now restored. He still owns a horse that is trained in Ballarat and preparing for a return to racing after injury.

He plays indoor bowls on Mondays, goes to the Timboon Men’s Shed on Tuesdays, enjoys being rostered on for Meals and Wheels on Wednesdays, attends the health service’s Social Support Group on Thursday and Fridays and helps on the gate at Terang Harness Club meetings.

“When we talk on the phone now, he is full of stories and is really positive again and that’s just wonderful and such a relief,” Jane said.

“Fiona has been so amazing for him and we’re so lucky that the help and services John needed are still available in Timboon – his home.”

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