Barb was the
Barb was the "strongest person" her family knew. Contributed

'She was everything': Family's precious years with Rocky mum

ALTHOUGH this was the first Christmas Barb Coyle's family spent without her, they hope her lasting legacy will save many lives in the future.

Barb spent her life helping and saving others as a nurse, so it came as a shock to her when in 2011 she became the patient.

Six years ago, Barb was diagnosed with non-tuberculosis mycobacterium (a bacterial infection in her lungs).

Eventually this meant she needed a double lung transplant.

Although this gave her more than four extra years with her family, Barb's condition continued to deteriorate and she died on December 13.

Despite this tragic outcome, her family are determined her legacy will live on.

Barb was the strongest person her family knew.

She was positive, independent, "very resilient" and had dedicated her life to saving people as a nurse.

She was a mother to three sons (Michael, 33, Matthew, 29, and Marc, 22), a daughter (Mairead, 25), and a pug named Billy.

After expensive medical costs, including the cost of the 60 tablets Barb had to take each day, the family has been left in a difficult financial situation.

Her husband Tony's sister Sharon Jennings created a Go Fund Me page to help get the family back on their feet.


Barb and Tony Coyle on their wedding day.
Barb and Tony Coyle on their wedding day. Contributed

"It's just giving my dad some support because for the past four and half years it's cost my parents a lot of money to keep my mum healthy," said Barb's daughter Mairead.

"We're still trying to wrap our heads around it. It was a very unexpected death. We had no idea that she was as sick as she was and it happened very very quickly.

"My partner and I picked her up from Brisbane on the Saturday. My plan was to actually care for my mum full time and by Wednesday she had passed away."

After she was diagnosed in 2011, Barb was put on a routine of antibiotics for 22 months.

After receiving the all clear, she was taken off them. But the infection flared up again.

"Everything was going well for the first three years," said Mairead.

"She was very healthy, very happy and in the last 18 months she had a lot of complications and it required a lot of time off work.

The Coyle Family. (L-R) Michael, Mairead, Barb, Tony, Marc and Mathew.
The Coyle Family. (L-R) Michael, Mairead, Barb, Tony, Marc and Mathew. Contributed


"She had to give up work and my dad had to take off work to look after her."

After treatment began to stop working, Barb was referred to Prince Charles hospital in Brisbane for a double lung transplant; "the only option to save her life".

"And it did save her life and we did get an extra four and a half years but unfortunately it wasn't as long as what we wanted," said Mairead.

"In the last month of my mum's life she was in hospital for two and a bit weeks because she was very unwell.

"She basically asked the doctors if she could come home and be with us to pass away peacefully."

Although Barb was offered the chance for a second transplant after becoming unwell again, her condition had deteriorated too far to go ahead with the second surgery.

However, her double lung transplant four and a half years ago was a second chance at life.

According to her family, the Rockhampton Hospital and Hillcrest Private Hospital nurse struggled to accept the fact somebody had died for her to have another chance.

"All her life she spent keeping other people alive and keeping other people healthy so it was very hard for her to understand and accept that that was what her life needed," Mairead said.

"It motivated her at the same time because she wanted to make her donor proud... and she did every single day.

"If I had it my way everyone would be a donor. People do not understand the second chance you can give from being an organ donor; it is unreal. The opportunity that you can give somebody else."


Barb and her husband Tony Coyle:
Barb and her husband Tony Coyle: "she was my rock". Contributed

A "jack of all trades", Barb worked as a surgical ward nurse, a mental health nurse and a day surgery nurse.

Her presence in the lives of her patients and loved ones left such an impact that her daughter has decided to keep her mother's legacy alive.

"My personal goal, I want to study something in the medical area and follow my mum," said Mairead.

Tony, an operator at Bajool Explosive Plant, met Barb in Toowoomba, and with their family, they moved to Rockhampton in 2001.

"It's just been a tough time... she was my everything, she was my rock," said Tony.

"I'm going back to work tomorrow just to try and get back into a groove.

"We've just got to take each day as it comes and it sort of is as they say - life goes on, as hard as it is life goes on.

Witnessing the strength his wife displayed particularly "in the last 18 months" has inspired Tony not to give up.

"It's been a battle and she fought all the way," he said.

Tony would also like to thank the dedicated staff at Prince Charles hospital who have supported the Coyle family for the last five and a half years, as well as the emergency services' ambulance.

"Without them this journey wouldn't have been what it is," he said.

"It's just a huge impact."

While looking through Barb's belongings, her family stumbled across a quote in her diary that summed up the strong mother.

"I still have a lot of fight left. While my feet are planted on this ground, I will fight... now to do the ironing..."


  • To donate to the Coyle family visit