Article from 2020/2021 Impact of Giving Annual Report
Property group Riverlee have been long term supporters of the RCH, but never in their wildest dreams did they expect their philanthropy to become so deeply personal. Kevin Lee, second generation owner of the Riverlee family business is forever grateful to the RCH for treating his six year old son, Tyler, after a shock cancer diagnosis in June 2020. This experience inspired the family’s support and involvement with the RCH150 program to honour 150 years of the hospital.
Kevin is still emotional as he recalls watching little Tyler fight for life in the RCH PICU. Prior to the heartbreaking cancer diagnosis, Tyler was a happy go lucky boy running around and playing with his siblings Collin and Mandy.
In June 2020, Tyler suddenly came down with a persistent fever which did not respond to any pharmacy medication. Red spots began developing around his eyes and neck and a small cut would not stop bleeding.
“The tipping point was when Tyler said he could not breathe. I listened to his chest and his airways were not blocked – this was when we knew something was not right and we needed to take him to the hospital,” said Kevin.
At their local hospital’s Emergency Department, doctors ran blood tests which revealed Tyler’s condition was highly complex and needed specialist paediatric care urgently. An ambulance rushed them to the RCH.
From there, things moved quickly as Tyler was admitted to the PICU where clinicians ran further tests as his condition deteriorated. Anxiously waiting for answers, Kevin and May finally heard four heart breaking words: “your child has cancer”. Tyler was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (type B), a type of blood cancer which severely weakens the body’s immune response.
“The next 48 hours were the toughest and absolute lowest point of our lives as we came to terms with Tyler’s diagnosis and what it all meant. They told us Tyler’s body was only functioning on 15 per cent normal blood cells when admitted and 85 per cent were leukaemia ‘junk’ cells. Luckily this form of cancer is very treatable and has a high success rate but we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Kevin.
Before starting chemotherapy, Tyler first had to beat an infection and spent a week in the PICU with doses of antibiotics and blood support. Once his condition stabilised, Tyler moved to Kookaburra, the cancer care ward, and began his first cycle of a six cycle treatment program.
This would form the beginning of a two and a half year treatment plan.
“We had so many touch points with different teams who enhanced our experience; our nurses, music therapists, clown doctors and Tyler’s entire medical team. May and I must express our immense gratitude to our amazing consultant oncologist Dr David Hughes, clinical nurse consultant Alie Barlow and the team of nurses who were our rock and continue to support us on this journey,” said Kevin.
During Tyler’s stay, Kevin met other families from a range of backgrounds, some who had travelled from interstate and regional areas to receive world leading treatment for their child.
“No matter who you are or where you come from, every child and their family receive the greatest care and support from a passionate and dedicated team in a world class hospital,” said Kevin.
Results are so far encouraging for Tyler, who is now in the lower dose maintenance phase of his treatment, coming into hospital every four weeks.
Kevin, along with his three siblings, run the established and highly successful property group Riverlee which specialises in development and asset ownership. Through the company’s charity Riverlee Foundation, the family support causes close to their hearts with a focus on health, medical research and education.
In 2021, Riverlee proudly supported Me and UooUoo, which saw 100 uniquely designed UooUoo sculptures dotted throughout streets, laneways and public spaces of Melbourne and Geelong, forming a spectacular public art trail to honour 150 years of the RCH. To help raise funds for the future of paediatric healthcare, Riverlee were event sponsors for the Me and UooUoo Charity Auction, hosting it at one of their venues in the city. Additionally, they generously purchased eight unique UooUoo sculptures, which will be featured as public art throughout their development projects, including the Seafarer’s Rest public park on the banks of the Yarra River. The Lee family also committed to a three year sponsorship of beds in Kookaburra and will be supporting the upcoming RCH150 Anniversary Dinner being held in 2022.
“This experience with Tyler was a real eye opener and is the main reason I will ensure our organisation and family give back and will continue our support of the RCH well into the future,” said Kevin.