It is only now in the “sanctuary” of a serviced apartment at Ryman Healthcare’s Nellie Melba Retirement Village that Liz Millman can start to comprehend the horror of a storm that changed her life.
At the height of the storm on June 9 which decimated homes and left thousands without electricity, Liz, 71, was forced to bunker down in a home without power knowing her family were in danger.
“It was extremely windy, but through the curtains I could see the flash of an emergency vehicle,” Liz said.
“I was a bit spooked because it's extremely isolated where I was, but I bravely went out and two firemen told me an emergency call had been made from the address.
“I told them I hadn’t made the call, but it must have been my daughter who was in a house about 1 mile away.”
Having described exactly where her daughter and family lived, Liz waited to get a call from emergency responders to tell her if they were safe.
Shortly after, as huge gum trees crashed down outside, Liz’s phone battery went flat.
“I had to sit all night in my room in the cold,” she said.
“All the while I didn’t know what was happening with my family.”
When dawn broke Liz huddled in her car and charged her phone.
Her family were safe, but their home, “a little wooden hills cottage” in Sassafras, was uninhabitable.
Much of the aftermath of the storm is a blur, but following nights sleeping in her clothes to keep warm in a house without power, and time at friend’s houses, Liz learnt of an offer to stay at Nellie Melba.
Ryman Healthcare offered free accommodation to any Dandenong Ranges resident aged over 65 who could not live in their home because of damage our lack of power caused by the devastating weather.
Ryman Healthcare Victorian Sales and Community Relations Manager Debra Richardson said it was a privilege to be able to help.
“Kindness and caring are integral to everything we do at Ryman,” she said.
“To be able to help people who have been so impacted by what happened is extremely humbling.”
Staying at the village had allowed her time to begin to process what she had been through, Liz said.
“I saw the apartment and thought wow, blimey!”
“This is fantastic because it has everything I need and there were even lovely flowers waiting for me.
“Having this time here will let me regain my strength to face the future.
“These little feelings are going down my back as the weight is lifted off my shoulders.”
Both village staff and residents had made her feel right at home, with Liz enjoying meals in the dining room with new Nellie Melba friends.
“To the residents and staff here I say, ‘thank you 1000 times’, this is such a sanctuary,” she said.
Liz encouraged others in the Dandenong Ranges to take up the offer of accommodation at the village.
“They are very caring people and they will make sure you have a good break so we can all be in a better place to help ourselves and our community process what has happened.”