Two year old Austin had a history of illness that doctors had passed off as viruses and soft tissue injuries. When bruises appeared all over his body and his stomach became enlarged, parents Alana and Nathan were finally referred to a paediatrician at the Port Macquarie Hospital Emergency Department. On the same day that a suspected Leukaemia diagnosis was made, Alana and Nathan were driving to John Hunter Hospital so Austin could begin his treatment.
The following day Alana and Nathan were taken into the ‘bad news room’ where a team of medical staff told them Austin had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. “My body was shaking and Nathan and I were both crying,” says Alana. “They delivered blow by blow the worst case scenario for Austin. So it’s fair to say at that moment everything that is important in your life flashes before your eyes, and the most important thing to us is Austin.”
Alana did not leave Austin’s side for the next week as he endured a bone marrow aspirate, lumbar puncture and chemotherapy. While Nathan went back to Ronald McDonald House each night to sleep. “That first night I arrived at Ronald McDonald House at midnight and a volunteer let me in,” says Nathan. “She said I didn’t have to fill out the paperwork right then, but I just sat down with her and went through it – just to calm down.”
“The staff and volunteers make the place so friendly. Every time we come and go the staff in the office have really bonded with Austin and with us, and just make our stay so much more enjoyable. And the volunteers who are here 24/7 they are always open to talk - they never push themselves on you but they offer an ear to talk to. And I’ve had some really good chats with some of them. I think Alana has too,” says Nathan. “You wouldn’t get that kind of support in a motel.”
If Austin’s treatment continues to go well, they will spend the next 6 months at Ronald McDonald House while he receives intensive treatment, and then be back and forth between the House and Port Macquarie for the next 2 years.
“Ronald McDonald House is home for us now,” says Alana. “When Austin says
‘I want to go home’ he means our unit here at Ronald McDonald House.”