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I’ve always grown up watching the annual Perth Telethon. I spent weekends watching it with my friends during sleepovers, checking out all the Aussie celebrities doing silly things to raise money for Western Australian kids and calling up to make a pledge, in the hopes of speaking to a hot Home and Away hunk. I know…we were all young once, don’t judge!
I watched the stories of remarkable and inspiring young kids in the Princess Margaret Hospital who battled big illnesses that grown adults with life experience would struggle to get their heads around. I saw footage of the neo-natal ward with all the tiny, struggling babies who were fighting to get a chance at life – their tired, stressed but hopeful parents hardly leaving their sides. I always cared, but I didn’t really ever think that Princess Margaret would be a place my child would ever need to be.
That stuff doesn’t occur to you when you’re daydreaming about your future. Even in 2011 (the year of my pregnancy) I watched Telethon (the very week before the Little Mister was born), without really batting an eyelid. Those were other peoples’ kids. I was moved by it all, but that’s someone else. It won’t be me. It didn’t even enter my mind.
The staff at Princess Margaret’s neo-natal unit are complete strangers to me. I wouldn’t recognise a single one of them. I wouldn’t know who they were, what they look like or what all of their job titles or qualifications are. However, they were entrusted with the Little Mister’s life from day1 to day 3 (the earliest hours of 7 Nov to the afternoon of the 9th Nov 2011). They kept him alive, they checked on his health, they comforted him when he needed it and from a very long distance (OK so it was an hour’s drive away but it felt like a continent separated us) they, by proxy, supported me as his mother. All I could do was sign a form saying I gave consent for them to use a pacifier and to feed him formula, then he was gone. These people were my Little Mister’s primary carers for the first few days of his life. They kept him safe, they changed his nappies, they fed and dressed him, and they made sure he was comfortable (with drips and monitors hanging off his little body). They weren’t my relatives, they weren’t his parents and they weren’t people I had personally employed. Yet they had the most precious job in the world. Can you count on one hand the people you would trust to hand your first baby over to five minutes after he/she was born?
Pic: Only one day old – on drips and oxygen
My husband was lucky enough to witness their amazing work first hand as he spent his time ferrying between both my hospital and Princess Margaret. He saw the nurses in action, he carefully held the Little Mister as he wore kindly donated, tiny clothes (I would see photos each day and the Hello Kitty onesie amused me – how Asian haha). He saw the other parents keeping vigil over their tiny babies, who were struggling so much harder than the Little Mister ever would. They were in for a lot more challenges than we were and it was a sad sight for my husband to take in as they looked wistfully at him holding our 8 pound baby boy, who just needed some oxygen and a heavy course of antibiotics before he’d be right as rain.
It was really hard watching my newborn baby, only hours old, in a special neo-natal incubator thingy (I really wish I knew what it’s called) designed for transporting him in an ambulance to another hospital. Having to wave pathetically (all doped up on pethidine) and say goodbye to a little man I hadn’t even spent more than five minutes with, who already had all of my heart. Not being able to touch him during this exchange. I thought of him being all alone without his parents for a big roadtrip to another place and I think it was too much for me so I played it cool and tried to go to sleep.
This year Telethon means so much more to me. I have kept my personal vow and dropped gold coins in the tins at my local supermarket all year. If I had some change at the check out, it went in the tin. My Little Mister didn’t have anywhere near as difficult a challenge as a lot of babies and children who benefit from the funds raised by Telethon. His experience was only a tiny tip of an iceberg and in no way do we compare his experiences with the tough times that other families all over the state are facing. However, because this small experience was as powerful as it was, it made me realise the absolute depth of the strength those families must have and just how deep they have to dig inside themselves to keep positive. These families need every bit of help they can muster.
I will support Telethon much more religiously forever onwards. To help the families I just described, but to also express my gratitude to the Princess Margaret Hospital and the amazing work they do.
To find out more about Telethon and how to donate this weekend (or any time of year), please click here. Telethon will be broadcast on Channel 7 Perth and GWN all weekend from 10 – 11 November.
Also, there’s Twitter. Have I covered all bases yet?!
If you really can’t muster up the enthusiasm for this cause (or live overseas and have no idea what I’m on about), then think about this:
Dan Ewing from Home and Away
Yeah. He’s going to be there.
You’re welcome, ladies (and gays).