Emily and her family are not strangers to self-isolation.
The global health crisis has put further stress on family's like Emily's, whose parents already struggle to find time to work, shop, and cook for themselves whilst being far from home so their child can get the help they need.
While our lives changed recently, Emily and her family's lives changed instantly over a year ago.
Nathan and Suzie’s three-year-old daughter, Emily had spent Boxing Day happily playing with her sisters Hailey and Kayla and their cousins at a family gathering, when they noticed some unexplained bruises on her arms and legs. Thinking this was strange, they called their local GP to make an appointment. However, being Christmas time, the first available time was not until 3 January – eight days later!
Early in the New Year, the family took a trip to the zoo. Over the course of the day, Emily had a minor fall, which resulted in significant bruising and swelling of her ankle – and they knew something was wrong.
On 3 January 2019, they attended their appointment at midday as planned, where they were advised to take Emily for blood tests. Within an hour of returning home from the pathology, the phone rang.
“We were told to take Emily to the nearest hospital immediately. They said not to pack a bag, and we didn’t have time to think about what was happening. We just had to grab our keys and go.”
Emily, with her dad at her side, were rushed from their local hospital in Rainbow Flat to John Hunter Hospital so she could get the vital medical care she needed.
They travelled 160km away from home with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Emily was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. She began chemotherapy the very next morning.
“It was a huge shock to the system. We were consumed by worries about Emily’s health, but also living two hours away, we needed somewhere to stay.
“Without Ronald McDonald House Charities, I don’t know what we would have done. Once we got over the initial shock, we would have looked for accommodation options, but we’d be in real financial strain,” said Nathan.
Whilst Emily underwent treatment, her family have been staying at our Ronald McDonald House Newcastle, where Nathan and Suzie are also able to care for their other two daughters Hailey (3) and Kayla (7) and stay nearby the hospital.
Emily has faced many challenges during her treatment that have taken her in and out of hospital. As a result, the family have stayed nearby with Ronald McDonald House Newcastle for more than a year.
“We had no idea how long we would be away from home, but with Emily so sick, we just couldn’t leave. It’s now been 419 days. I can’t imagine being separated from Nathan and the girls for that long,” said Suzie.
With Emily now in remission, but receiving treatment every two months, the family continue to spend time at the House, which has become a crucial home away from home.
“Having a family suite at the house has meant that our family has been able to stay together. Hailey and Kayla love the playground and toy rooms, and for us, having the Ronald McDonald House staff and volunteers close by to provide support has been incredible. In particular, returning to the House after a long day with Emily in treatment, and having a cooked meal served for our family. I can’t express how grateful I am.”