Amid the throes of the ongoing rural healthcare crisis, country people are often forced to travel huge distances and contend with complex health systems. Quite often, nobody will ask what help they actually need.
Kelly Foran knows this all too well. She has been uprooted from her country home and thrown between seven hospitals, three health systems and two states to access medical treatment.
This would drive Kelly to leave her role as an agricultural commodity trader and become a change-making rural healthcare advocate.
Kelly and her family were in the depths of the Millennium Drought when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She was eight months into her pregnancy with her son who would also develop a life-threatening illness.
"I'd gone from being a power-dressing woman in an agricultural, male dominated-field, to being, you know," she said. "I look different... I talk different. I didn't really believe that my voice had any power at all, especially not within health."
Kelly would also suffer a stroke, debilitating disease and mental health challenges. But despite these hardships, to meet her is to be welcomed by a warm, impassioned presence.
"It was lots of different backwards and forwards to hospitals," she said. "They didn't ask whether we have accommodation. They didn't ask if we knew where to park the car. They didn't even ask."
It was in a Sydney hospital that Kelly left her room one day to see a family asleep in the corridor.
The indigenous family was from Inverell. Some 570 kilometres from home, their newborn was in the high dependency intensive care unit with an oxygen deficiency. They couldn't afford accommodation.
Doing what she could, Kelly would swap her birthing suite with the family during the day.
"They had nobody to ask for help. They were so entrenched in what was going on," she said.
"They ended up losing their baby. But you know, this family just needed somebody to give a damn.
"As rural people, we're not empowered. We really do take what we're given."
At the time, Kelly was working from the family farm near Narrabri. She decided to pull her family's experience together into a website and publish their home phone number as a 24/7 hotline. And so began the Friendly Faces Helping Hands Foundation. The foundation provides a free support service to help rural people access and navigate different healthcare services.
"I wanted to put all the knowledge I had about different services and other amazing not-for-profit services that you don't know about because they don't have the funds to advertise and to market," she said.
"They're just there like me - trying to help."
The foundation has since grown as an organisation which aims to empower and support rural people, particularly when they must travel to access health services during an already daunting time.
"We're farmers, we've got no money, but I knew I had to do it," Kelly said. "This, financially, probably has put us 15 years behind."
Kelly said even now, it was tough to apply for funding when she was busy answering the hotline and managing online inquiries, particularly when most grants were project-based. But the Foran family had experienced many acts of random kindness and generous contributions.
In 2014, Kelly made an address at the Dirranbandi Campdraft in Queensland. Afterwards, she was given an Australian Stock Horse.
Her husband, with the help of campdrafters, Matt and Chrissie French, Nimmitabel, broke it in. They sold the horse at the Nutrien Classic Sale, held annually in Tamworth, with the proceeds going to the foundation. Chrissie is now also a foundation director.
"I spoke at the (Nutrien Classic) which was really quite unusual at that stage," Kelly said, "and a lady from the (United) States owned this million-dollar cutting horse and so she actually donated the service fee of her stallion from America.
"Then other people at the sale donated other service fees and so it was a real buzz."
The foundation now has about 40 volunteers across Australia who support an average of 6000 people a month. In total, Friendly Faces Helping Hands has helped about 160,000 people since it became a foundation in 2011.
Now based in Glen Innes, Kelly has spoken at more than 190 events as the foundation's CEO and sits on multiple health boards.
Later this year, she will speak at the National Rural Health Alliance Conference, Brisbane, and The Hospital Auxiliary Conference, Sydney. Kelly says her dream would be to one day have a Friendly Faces Helping Hands room in every hospital; a safe space that would have a place for kids, food and refreshments, and information.
"I think people want to help, they just don't know how to help and that's what I hold dear to my heart. The key is giving back... for all the negativity and horrible things that happen in the world, I just think there are great things out there."
I think people want to help, they just don't know how to help and that's what I hold dear to my heart. The key is giving back... for all the negativity and horrible things that happen in the world, I just think there are great things out there.- Kelly Foran, Glen Innes.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.