Yvonne Leyman hadn’t seen her sister for two years.
The Bert Sutcliffe Hospital resident was overjoyed last week to finally reunite with her sister- Juliellen, who flew in from Virginia in the United States.
“It’s been two long years, with a lot of health challenges, but we are finally together,” said Yvonne.
The sisters were separated in March 2020 after New Zealand closed its borders, meaning Juliellen couldn’t make her usual trip every few months to visit Yvonne, who has no remaining family in New Zealand.
“As soon as the border opening was announced I booked my flights,” said Juliellen.
“I’ve also had health complications and that’s made travelling even harder, so it’s good to finally be back."
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Yvonne and Juliellen were born and raised on the North Shore before spending much of their lives overseas. Yvonne returned to New Zealand in 1996, while Juliellen was married and went to live in the states.
Yvonne never married or had children; however, she dedicated her working life to serving communities around the globe as a nurse, sometimes in remote places.
“I was a midwife on a bicycle (yes like Call the Midwife) working in the UK for 5 years, I’ve also worked in South Africa, Western Australia, Sydney….
“I’ve seen a lot in life. I worked in San Francisco as a nurse just as the AIDS epidemic was starting, and I also worked in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. I was running an operating room near the Kuwait border.
“The cultural differences there were extreme and working conditions were still a challenge at the time, especially for women.
“But to top all of that, probably the hardest job I ever did was working in the Flying Doctors Service in the Outback of Australia. That was working in poor conditions; however, it was very, very rewarding.”
After bouncing around back to the UK and America, and then spending a brief amount of time orange picking in Israel, Yvonne came back to work in New Zealand at Princess Mary Hospital (now Starship) running two operating rooms as the charge nurse.
But her fondest memory she said, is spending a lot of time working as a Plunket nurse on the North Shore, helping many families bring their babies into the world.