Man finds his saviour
FOR decades, Bernie Culey had been told of a Bessie Hansen who had saved his life when he was just over a year old.
Until recently, he had never had the chance to meet her.
Their reunion at Bundaberg's Meilene Court nursing home, 67 years later, was made possible after a friend of Mr Culey's sister, who works in aged care, retold the story she had been told by Mrs Hansen and was able to point the family in the right direction.
Mr Culey, who lives in Brisbane, immediately got on the phone and arranged to meet the woman who had saved his life all those years ago.
“I was just in awe of her,” he said.
“When she answered my call she knew exactly who I was.”
So Mr Culey, his wife and his sister travelled to Bundaberg to hear Mrs Hansen's account of the tale.
In 1942, Mrs Hansen was living in a tent village with her husband, who was helping build roads for the war effort near Mt Isa.
One day, their friend from a neighbouring tent came running to their camp about 4.30am with his 12-month-old son, Bernie, wrapped in his arms.
“He said, 'this little baby is dead',” Mrs Hansen said.
Upon touching the baby, Mrs Hansen quickly realised he was alive and she sprung into action.
“I was the only one with a stove, which was still running as my husband had just gotten in,” she said.
“I grabbed the big tub of water and the kettle and we ran to their tent.”
It was inspiration from her mother that told Mrs Hansen what to do next.
“Mum was a great believer in mustard and I said, 'do you have any mustard?' And we put the mustard in the water and he started to come around,” she said.
It was not long after that incident that Mrs Hansen fell pregnant and left the tent village to be closer to medical care, losing contact with the Culeys.
Mrs Hansen said she had thought about the incident often and had tried to search out Bernie and his family since she lost contact with them.
“I rang a few different Culeys but I could never get any information from them,” she said.
In a strange twist, it turned out the reunion could have happened earlier.
At one point Mr Culey's parents lived at Bundaberg just a few kilometres from Mrs Hansen without knowing they were in the same city.