Laurie Theresa Harbort
Readers of the Catholic Leader during the period 1955 to 1980
For Dr Maryanne Balanzategui, life was about making the world a better place for loved ones and her community.
The 56-year-old GP and mother-of-two, died on New Year's Eve from a heart attack while working in her garden at her Annandale home. She was farewelled by 700 mourners on January 12 at the Ryan Community Centre in Kirwan.
In six separate tributes, family, colleagues and friends remembered Dr Balanzategui as a highly committed doctor who was passionate about providing equitable health care services to people living in rural, regional, and remote communities.
At the time of her death, Dr Balanzategui was working in Magnetic Island's emergency health clinic where she was responsible for emergency presentations and stabilisation of patients prior to their transfer to Townsville University Hospital.
In a moving eulogy, Dr Balanzategui's husband Andrew Gysberts, told the gathering his wife's occupation did not define her.
"She was not just a doctor, rural generalist, nurse, pharmaceutical representative, lecturer and medical indemnity officer, she was a beautiful, loving, caring and considerate mother, wife and best friend to the three of us," he said. "A life cut short, but lived to the full."
Mr Gysberts said family and friends would always remember her as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin and "bloody good friend" to so many people.
"Maryanne really cared for you all and really wanted to make a difference," he said. "She really wanted to make the world a better place."
Friends and colleagues remembered a tenacious and courageous woman who fought hard for her academic achievements and medical qualifications.While working as a senior nurse at the Townsville Hospital, and looking after two young daughters, Eliza and Molly, she continued to study and by the age of 52 realised her long-held dream of becoming a doctor.
Mr Gysberts recalled that after accomplishing so much, his wife remained humble.
"Recently a friend asked her how many letters she would have after her name," he said.
"Maryanne's response was, 'You'll never see those. I am just a normal person who had the ability to study hard, I am not that smart'."
Born in 1966, the first daughter after five boys, Dr Balanzategui grew up on a cane farm in Stone River, that was established by her grandparents who emigrated from Lekeitio on the Basque coast to Ingham in 1915.
Vincent Balanzategui recalls his younger sister swimming in Stone River, playing dress-ups with her cousins and an eight-month family holiday in Europe and America which inspired her lifelong passion for travel.
On behalf of his brothers and mother Linda, Mr Balanzategui said he wanted to "acknowledge how incredibly proud we are of her many achievements and what she brought to our world."
"So bright, vivacious, funny, bossy, organised and busy, you fitted two adventurous and full lifetimes into your short 56 years," he said.
As a young nurse, Dr Balanzategui would bring her signature warmth and care to all who crossed her path, both in Australia and around the globe.
Mr Gysberts said his wife's talent and empathy were clear to everyone at the Cromwell Hospital in London, where she worked in the early 1990s.
"At that time there were patients of the Gulf war with horrific injuries and HIV-AIDS was at its peak. Maryanne's level of care was so profound she even learnt how to speak Arabic to communicate with the influx of immigrants at that time.
"Some of the patients became good friends and were invited to the parties held at Mary-Anne's flat. Unfortunately she was in a basement flat which often meant manoeuvring a wheelchair or someone on crutches down the stairs.
"Everyone was considered equal and there was always a mixture of nationalities."
Dr Balanzategui returned to Australia in 1993 with plans to become a physiotherapist, but changed direction to complete a further five years of study to hold a Bachelor of science with Distinction and Master of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Later, in her sixth year of medical college, Dr Balanzategui travelled to a remote town in South Africa called Worchester.
The experience in South Africa exposed her to another side of medicine, the bare bones, where anaesthetic was scarce and medical gloves were in short supply.
Mr Gysberts remembered a night shift where his wife was presented with seven shootings and 14 stabbings, and the treatment was basic first aid.
"She split her time between the maternity ward and the emergency department while at the Worchester Hospital," he said.
"Maryanne made a comment after the completion of her placement that she should have chosen the emergency department for the whole duration, the maternity ward was boring - that was our Maryanne."
He said as a couple, and then later as a family, they made every opportunity to seek out new experiences, whether it be visiting the lost Inca ruins in Machu Picchu, or dog sledding in the Arctic Circle.
"Many friends and family joined us on our international adventures, many of you in this room," Mr Gysberts said.
"Travelling to a total of 72 countries, many shared with our two beautiful children, Maryanne did not die wondering," he said.
"She was our motivator, our carer, our party girl and our very best friend."
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