Meet Bella

Article from 2022/2023 Impact of Giving Annual Report

From forging lifelong friendships and creating lasting memories, to providing a much needed space away from the medical world, ChIPS has become a place of hope and empowerment for young people facing chronic illness.

One of these young people is Bella, a fifteen year old with Noonan syndrome. Noonan syndrome is a rare genetic condition present from birth, that can cause a range of health problems.

“Fifteen years ago, there really wasn’t a lot about Noonan syndrome out there – in fact, I had to write letters to a lot of paediatricians around Australia to find someone that had experience with Noonan syndrome. That’s where I found Dr Julian Kelly, who’s part of the RCH,” Bella’s mum, Donna, shared.

Bella’s connection to ChIPS began through a unique link – her babysitter was once a part of the program.

“I joined ChIPS during quarantine, but before that, my babysitter also had a chronic illness and was a part of ChIPS. So, when I found out about ChIPS, I was like, ‘Oh wow, I really want to do this!’” Bella said.

“Bella’s babysitter told us about ChIPS, which was just fortuitous. And then we asked Julian about it, and he helped us apply for the intake group. So, this has opened up an enormous door for us,” Donna added.

“To have a hospital where we can have the medical side of things, but also another side with a youth group,
leadership program, mentoring program, and a safe space – this nurtures her emotional, physical, social and mental wellbeing. A program like ChIPS unlocks all of those doors for Bella.”

When asked about a special memory of ChIPS, Bella fondly recalls a moment from a recent ChIPS camp.

“During camp, when I was on the giant swing the first time, I was very nervous. But everyone was cheering for me, and you just feel really comfortable with trying new things – there isn’t any pressure.”

For Bella and Donna, the hospital, particularly ChIPS, holds immense importance.

“The hospital has been really important to us to know that we have a safe space. With ChIPS, there are friendships being made, there is confidence – the hospital has literally opened up a whole new world,” Donna said.

“The hospital is like a second home for us – seeing the meerkats, the aquarium, going to Maccas, sitting on the hill – it’s pretty remarkable.”

Bella summed up the program’s impact succinctly: “Without ChIPS, I don’t know where I would be right now.”