Walking into the Emergency Department at the Perth Children’s Hospital with their sick two-year-old daughter Amelia, Brianna and Russell felt almost embarrassed about their concerns for her.
“I originally thought that Amelia was dehydrated from a tummy bug,” says Brianna. “I honestly thought I was overreacting… I thought the doctors were going to tell me to go home.”
Instead they ordered a range of scans, including a CT, to work out what was wrong as Amelia became much sicker. “It was during the CT scan that everything went horribly wrong,” Brianna says. “Amelia stopped breathing.”
After multiple attempts to resuscitate the little girl, including an emergency procedure to remove some fluid on her lungs, she was rushed to intensive care. Her scan had showed she had Wilms Tumour, a kidney cancer mostly seen in children under five. It had started in her left kidney, then travelled into her other kidney, liver and up to the entrance of her heart. Brianna and Russell were in shock. They’d just bought a house after relocating to Perth from Queensland, and welcomed a new baby, six month old Lachlan.
“We didn’t have a lot of family support. The juggle to be there for Amelia and our baby boy was really, really hard.”
“You never expect to be told your little girl has cancer,” says Brianna.
Amelia immediately began weekly chemotherapy to shrink the tumours. Three months after her emergency admission to hospital, they’d shrunk enough for a team of doctors to successfully remove them. To help stop the cancer returning, Amelia then needed more chemotherapy with ten doses of radiotherapy.
The treatment took its toll on little Amelia. After facing that trauma and shock at her young age, she became terrified to come to the hospital. Fun at the park or playing with her friends was no comfort – these activities were also off-limits in case she caught an infection.
“It was a massive struggle for all of us – every decision we made had to be based around what was best for Amelia,” Brianna tells us. “We were devastated every time we had to watch Amelia endure the procedures required to complete her treatment.”
Perth Children’s Hospital is the only centre for treatment of children with cancer in WA. Helped by incredibly generous people like you, Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation has been at the forefront of research into this extraordinarily complex disease. We urgently need your help now to keep seeking less invasive and distressing treatments and of course cures that children like Amelia and their families are relying on.
“We wouldn’t be here today, moving the research field forward, if it wasn’t for the Foundation – funding from the government just isn’t enough,” says Dr Nick Gottardo.
A fellowship from the Foundation helped Dr Gottardo begin his career in medicine. He is now the hospital’s Head of Department in Paediatric Oncology and Haematology, and Professorial Chair,
spearheading the fight against childhood cancer in WA and internationally.
“I am fighting alongside these families, not just for them,” Dr Gottardo says.
“My state of the art research lab means that we can internationally collaborate with some of the most brilliant minds in oncology and be the difference in these kids’ lives. The Foundation has also funded a Clinical Research Manager and three more Fellows, all of whom are working on the new wave of treatments for cancer and hopefully, in the future, they will be part of the international movement that finds a cure.”
Amelia had seven months of active treatment before Brianna and Russell received the amazing news that she was in remission. She will still need regular hospital checks for the rest of her life, but she is now back enjoying normal toddler life. She loves hide and seek, playing chasey and watching Paw Patrol cartoons.
“We could easily have lost our little girl,” says Brianna. “We’re so fortunate to have a world class facility like Perth Children’s Hospital here in WA, supported by the Foundation. You can’t fault their dedication to saving kids’ lives. We will be forever grateful.”
Survival rates have improved since 2010, thanks to medical advances, but childhood cancer still kills more Australian children than any other disease. No family should receive the news Amelia’s did and not have any hope they’ll see their child grow up.
Please give today to keep providing world-class treatment to children with cancer like Amelia. Your tax-deductible donation would help us fund more cutting-edge equipment, expertise, and lifesaving research like that being undertaken by Dr Gottardo and his team.
“Only true collaboration across the world is going to find a cure for all cancers, with minimal to no damage to the patients. We still desperately need your help.”