Twelve year old Mia and her two older brothers Josh and Adam have a running competition. But unlike other families, it’s not who can run the fastest, or who can tell the funniest jokes. For them, it is who has been in the most wards at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). The winner so far? Mia.
Mia was born with a septal atrial defect, which means she had a small hole between the chambers of her heart. When she was eight, Mia underwent surgery at the RCH, with doctors inserting a titanium ‘butterfly’ between the chambers, fixing the hole forever. On top of her heart surgery, Mia has also been admitted to the RCH for surgery on her foot, a sprained ankle, gastric issues and to have her appendix removed.
While these experiences were overwhelming, what Mia remembers the most is the kindness of the RCH staff. That’s why it was no surprise for Mia’s mum, Donna, when her daughter opted to raise money for the RCH rather than receive gifts for her batmitzvah, resulting in a donation of over $5,500 to the hospital.
“For a Jewish girl, a batmitzvah is a coming of age when they turn 12. It is a time where they progress from childhood and into adulthood,” explained Donna.
As part of the batmitzvah celebrations, families often hold parties for friends and family to acknowledge this special occasion. Traditionally, guests bring a gift to this celebration. There is also a period of preparation and study leading into the batmitzvah, which according to Donna, is something which resonated with Mia.
“Ahead of the batmitzvah, you study what it is to be part of a community, how to give back to your community, and your place in a community. While Mia was doing this study, she was learning about how to be kind to others and how to be grateful for what you have.
“We had a conversation about how instead of gifts like some children receive, if it might be better for Mia to use the opportunity to give back and fulfill her obligation as part of a community. It was never a question for Mia, or us, about where the money would go – it was always the RCH,” said Donna.
Both Donna and Mia recall the generosity of staff at the hospital across all of Mia’s admissions.
“Each time we visited the RCH, all of the doctors and support staff were incredibly kind, patient and supportive of Mia, which is something I am so grateful for,” said Donna.
“They may be there to do a job, but they go above and beyond in how they interact and relate with the patient and their family. I remember when we went in for Mia’s appendix and I bumped into her heart surgeon. It was New Year’s Eve, and he was on his way home to celebrate with his family, but he still made an effort to come and visit Mia in the ward.
“Another time, we’d arrived at the RCH emergency room; we were really stressed as we didn’t know what was wrong with Mia. I needed to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to leave her alone. However, one of the beautiful RCH Volunteers came over to sat with Mia and talked to her. Just the tone of her voice really changed the whole experience for Mia, and meant a lot to me as it took a lot of the stress away,” she added.
Mia also remembers these moments with the same fondness as Donna and explains this was her way of saying thank you to everyone who helped her.
“The RCH staff gave so much to me and supported me, so I wanted to give back to them. I remember once when I arrived at the hospital, I was feeling very anxious, and a volunteer helped me. She was so kind and thoughtful.
“I hope the funds raised will support children like me who end up in hospital,” she added.