Sharni Benson with her son Mitchell.
Sharni Benson with her son Mitchell.

Rockhampton woman Sharni Benson gives birth after death

SHARNI Benson fights back the tears to describe her loveable larrikin partner, a man who had so much to give.

Her voice trembles as she describes Mick Massey's cheeky grin, his boyish antics, his distinct voice, his infectious laugh.

A man who was passionate about his work as a truck driver and machinery operator, well-respected by workmates and peers alike.

Then there is a haunting silence.

She swallows hard before she starts to recall the harrowing events of July 19, 2012, the day her beloved partner of six years was taken from her.

Twenty-seven weeks' pregnant and in Brisbane alone, Sharni was about to witness the unimaginable.

Mick's organs were failing and medical staff could not maintain his blood pressure.

"I can still see them giving CPR, hear the alarms on the machines ... then my darling Mick was taken from me."

This was the nightmarish end to his battle with mycobacterium avium, a disease reminiscent of tuberculosis.

Mick was first diagnosed with the lung condition in 2010 when he and Sharni were living in Port Pirie, South Australia.

He underwent intensive treatment, which included the delivery of antibiotics through a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter), as well as oral antibiotics.

Mick was unable to work so they returned to Bouldercombe to be with his parents.

Sharni worked; Mick continued his treatment as an outpatient at Rockhampton Hospital.

A routine chest X-ray in mid-2011 delivered much-awaited relief - the infection appeared to have gone.

Mick returned to work and their lives regained some normality.

Thinking their medical battle was fought and won, they had extra reason to celebrate when in early 2012 Sharni learned she was pregnant.

But the joy was short-lived when, several months later, Mick started feeling sick again.

An anxious three-week wait for the results of sputum tests ended in heartbreak: the bacteria was back.

A strong and determined man, Mick continued working but on the morning of July 18, excruciating stomach pains forced him home.

Sharni called an ambulance and by lunch-time, Mick was on life support in the Gladstone Hospital.

Late that afternoon, he was airlifted to Brisbane and Sharni was told to brace for the worst.

"They told me they didn't expect that he would make it to Brisbane. He did. He made it. He was fighting hard to stay with us," Sharni said.

"He went into surgery because his red blood cells were breaking down, causing him to bleed internally. They got 2.5 litres of blood out of his abdomen.

"He made if through the surgery and there was a glimmer of hope he might turn the corner.

"I was in Brisbane by myself. I figured as long as I had Mick, I didn't need anyone else."

But then tragedy struck and Sharni was left "bereft, tormented and very alone in a frightening new world".

Twelve months on from that agonising day, and the pain is still acute. But 32-year-old Sharni says she can see glimpses of light through the shroud of darkness.

"They come from my baby Mitchell, from the pride and love that fills the heart of every parent. They come from my friends, from family and strangers, who are relentless in their giving.

"I hope that I can make Mick proud as we live and honour him daily. That is the only way I know how to survive."

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