150 years of hope

There are so many words you could use to describe Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.

Life-saving. Pioneering. Full of hope and kindness.

In their 150-year history, they’ve built a reputation for being world-leaders in treatment and medical innovation.

There’s also an overwhelming sense of community, and staff and volunteers who move mountains to help those in their care.

On September 9, 1870 the Melbourne Free Hospital for Sick Children opened, small and humble.

Today, the RCH is recognised globally as one of the world’s greatest paediatric hospitals — and its 150th birthday, we say thank you for the wonderful care the provide.

Little Mollie Targett is one of the many thousands of kids to come through the doors of the RCH each year.

Three months ago the toddler, who will turn one on Friday, accidentally swallowed a lithium battery which likely came from a friend’s toy.

Mollie Page at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Picture: Alvin J Aquino

Mollie and mum Jess Page were rushed from their home in Hobart to the RCH, where they were told the battery had lodged in Mollie’s throat, burnt her oesophagus and paralysed her vocal cords.

“It’s really, really heartbreaking,” Ms Page says.

“She can’t talk now, she can’t even cry. She’s tube fed, because if she drinks or eats it goes into her lungs. She couldn’t breathe properly — it’s so hard to watch.”

Mollie was transferred to ICU five days ago and had a tracheostomy — which involves inserting a tube into the airways via the neck, to allow her to breathe properly again.

But Ms Page said it’s her daughter’s fighting spirit which keeps them going.

“She’s got so much love and spirit and happiness and strength,” she said.

“And I really feel that’s what has gotten her through this.

“That and the staff. I wish I could thank everyone, you’ve saved my daughter’s life.”

Jaxson Taylor-Dix. Picture: Alvin J Aquino

That sentiment is something shared by Kelly Taylor, from Epping, whose 10-year-old son Jaxon was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in May.

He began months of chemotherapy and treatment at the RCH, a rollercoaster his mum said has been “traumatising” to watch.

“As a mother it’s awful to watch,” Ms Taylor said.

“He’s lost his hair and continues to vomit, he needs help showering and doesn’t eat much.”

Ms Taylor said despite the devastating news, her son — who is one of eight siblings — was a “superstar”.

“He’s always been that little boy that doesn’t complain,” Ms Taylor said.

“It does get confronting … (but) the staff are fantastic. If it wasn’t for them my son wouldn’t be here, they’re saving his life.”

The family of Maddie Downes, 3, are just beginning their journey with the RCH but are already so grateful for their care.

Isla Kapeller. Picture: Alvin J Aquino

The youngster has been battling chronic back pain for months, which landed her at the hospital for scans and testing last week.

The scans revealed demyelination — or spots — on Maddie’s brain, which will need close monitoring as she grows.

“It’s definitely been quite confronting and really worrying,” Maddie’s mum, Bella Engelander, said.

“But the staff were so supportive and the nurses were wonderful and reassuring — they’ve made Maddie’s time at the RCH almost enjoyable.”

And for brave Willow Burrows, 10, the RCH has become a home away from home.

Willow, a gymnast, is a regular at the hospital due to her rare bone disease, called Chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis (CRMO).

The condition took two years to diagnose, and left Willow unable to walk due to intense pain.

“It’s a one in a million diagnosis,” Willow’s mum, Catherine Burrows, said.

“We’re really lucky in that she’s recovered and is back walking now, she only has occasional pain but she can live with it. It’s amazing what the RCH will do to help kids.”

Maddie Downs. Picture: Alvin J Aquino

Over the years, the RCH has been apart of groundbreaking medical moments, such as the separation of conjoined Bangladeshi twins, Trishna and Krishna in 2009, and the introduction of cancer-killing CAR T-cell therapy.

John Stanway, Chief Executive Officer of The Royal Children’s Hospital, said Wednesday’s milestone was “for everyone who has helped make the RCH the great place that it is today.”

“We are incredibly proud of the care we’ve provided, the partnerships we have built along the way and the lives we have changed,” Mr Stanway said.

Story by: Alanah Frost, Herald Sun

Maddie Downs. Picture: Alvin J Aquino