Four year old Austin, or Ozzie as his family and friends know him, has a vivacious energy for life.
Like many little boys his age, he loves playing with friends, cuddling the family dogs and spending time with his mum and dad.
Alana and Nathan, Ozzie’s mum and dad, received the heartbreaking news that Ozzie had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was just two years old.
It has been an uphill battle for the family, who have spent months away from their home in Port Macquarie, so they can access the life-changing treatment and intense chemotherapy that Ozzie needs at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital in Newcastle.
It’s not easy to suddenly pack your life into a few bags and travel 244 kilometres to get vital treatment for your sick child, with no idea when you’ll be able to return home.
For Alana and Nathan, staying at Ronald McDonald House was a life saver and allowed them to be by Ozzie’s side to make sure he continued to be brave and happy, despite the challenges of his treatment.
Ozzie is a person who loves language and is comforted by physical touch, so having mum and dad nearby meant the world to him.
“When Ozzie was first diagnosed, we spent over seven months away from home, to be at his side as he received the treatment he needed. We spent more than 10 hours of many of our days in hospital, so finding accommodation and even eating a meal were the last things on our mind,” Alana said.
“Ronald McDonald House provided a home away from home, and to come back to the house and sit down to a cooked meal prepared by the evening’s group volunteers was one of life’s simple pleasures.”
While the tough, initial chemo treatment period is over for Ozzie, it’s a long road ahead as he travels between Port Macquarie and Newcastle to receive maintenance treatment and continues to battle against leukaemia.
“Ozzie has survived more in his short life than many adults. He has endured more than I ever thought possible, and both Nathan and I have been with him every step of the way,” Alana said.
For the month of September, community members, gyms and businesses will pull together for the Ride for Sick Kids to provide crucial funds that will help us to keep our doors open so we can support hundreds of other families, just like Ozzie’s.
“Thank you Ronald McDonald House Charities for all you do and give to families like ours. It’s not only a charity, it’s the people within this charity that make it. The kind support, shoulder to cry on and endless offerings. It’s a place I never even knew about, a charity that meant nothing until we needed it. I’m so thankful they are there,” Alana said.