One in five children in Western Australia has a respiratory disease. It is the leading cause of hospitalisation for children…
Born at 23 weeks, twins Eden and Willow Turner were the earliest of surprises for parents Jess and Kale.
After spending time on a ventilator to support her underdeveloped lungs, Eden had difficulty breathing on her own and was sent to PMH for further investigation.
The doctors discovered that Eden had suffered some scarring to her airways. They were able to reduce the amount of scar tissue by injecting steroids into the area and, at 18 weeks old, Eden was able to finally go home.This was to be short lived, as a few weeks later Eden’s breathing became loud and laboured and the Turner family made a dash to the Emergency Department with their tiny little girl.
Eden underwent a tracheostomy, a procedure where doctors inserted a tube in her throat to help her breathe. The scarring had caused a narrowing of Eden’s airway and she wasn’t able to take in enough oxygen.
She was an inpatient for five months while she stabilised and her parents learnt to take care of her life saving tracheostomy.
It was a cause for celebration when Eden was once again discharged and Jess and Kale were looking forward to being at home together with all four of their girls in Bunbury. But yet again, Eden’s health took a turn for the worse and she was reliant on a higher level of oxygen than the doctors expected. She was sent back to PMH for more tests.
During these tests, Eden became critically ill with a virus. She was sedated and placed on life support. Jess and Kale were told that nothing more could be done for her.
Eden had other plans. Despite the grim prognosis, she was a fighter and over the course of three weeks her health slowly started to improve. Once off life support, Eden needed to learn how to smile, sit and rollover all over again. Eden celebrated her first birthday with Willow and her family in the Intensive Care Unit.
Living with a trachestomy meant that Eden required 24 hour monitoring. Her airways required regular suctioning to prevent it blocking with secretions and she often tried to pull the tube out which would have led to an emergency situation.
By the time Eden was three, she had become much bigger and stronger so the clinicians decided to remove her tracheostomy tube. This was a wonderful milestone for the Turner family, as it meant that they had much more flexibility in the activities they could do as a family.
But this was not the end of the journey. A small hole in Eden’s neck had failed to heal completely and doctors decided to close it surgically. Overnight, Eden struggled to breathe and the decision to reinsert the tracheostomy tube was made.
Again, Eden spent a number of weeks recovering from the surgery. When she was deemed strong enough, she underwent a Laryngotracheal Reconstruction. The surgeon used part of Eden’s rib cartilage to widen her airway. The operation was a success and the tracheostomy was permanently removed but Eden’s vocal chords were further apart than usual, making it difficult for her to speak.
“Fillers have been placed in her vocal chords so they’re able to move closer together and with these procedures and daily speech therapy, Eden’s voice has improved and her confidence had soared.”
We are very lucky to have benefitted from the specialised nasopharyngoscopes funded by the Foundation. The doctors can get a really clear view of Eden’s vocal chords and see how well they work, explained Jess.
“Eden would generally refuse to talk to anyone but has now become very chatty and even loves to sing her favourite songs. It has been a long road, but we are so thankful to the staff at the hospital for everything they have done for Eden and Willow.”
“The hospital has some of the best doctors in the world. Because of them, Eden is alive and is a very energetic seven year old. Without the advances in technology and equipment and the expertise of the surgeons, Eden wouldn’t be where she is today.”
We’ve had long stays in hospital which becomes hard on our other three girls, especially when we’re so far from our home. The staff have always gone above and beyond to help when they can and having play spaces such as Megazone and Fun on Four have been a wonderful break from all the medical procedures.
Eden continues to come to hospital every month. She is doing exceptionally well and her speech is progressing beyond what Jess and Kale could have hoped.
“She still struggles with sport as she gets out of breath quite easily and she sometimes avoids talking with people she doesn’t know as she is aware she doesn’t quite sound the same as other girls, but Eden has huge aspirations for her future. She would love to be a Police Officer when she grows up and would love to go swimming with dolphins sometime in the near future,” said Jess.
Despite her breathlessness, Eden loves to play basketball at school. She is also a huge fan of West Coast Eagles star Nic Naitanui. It is a testament to her kind heart that in spite of everything she has been through in her life, she was very worried when he was injured and is looking forward to seeing him in action next season.
“We are immensely proud of how far Eden has come. She’s a special little girl!” Jess enthused.
If you’d like to help kids like Eden, you can make a donation to the Foundation below: