Addie's Story

1 September 2020

For young mum Natalie, Ronald McDonald House Canberra has been “a lifesaver” during her record-breaking stay of eight months while she cares for her seriously ill daughter. Natalie is now the longest staying guest at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Canberra which provides accommodation within the hospital for families with seriously ill children from regional NSW.

Early in her pregnancy, it was identified that Natalie’s baby had serious bowel issues. Soon after birth, Addison had the first of five surgeries and multiple medical procedures to treat jujenal atresia, a birth defect commonly referred to as short bowel syndrome or short gut.

“We have been extremely lucky that the house here in Canberra is connected to the hospital, making seeing Addison very easy and convenient,” Natalie says.

“I’ve very rarely left the hospital, and if I did it was when she was a lot younger and didn’t need me here 24/7.”

If these significant challenges weren’t enough to deal with, the Covid-19 pandemic has added another layer of stress with visitor restrictions for patients. “It has been a really challenging time mentally and physically,” Natalie says.

Natalie encourages people to donate to RMH Canberra. “We are so grateful to those who donate and also to the volunteers who give their time to make it such a great place to stay,” she says.

“Families like myself would be left broke, stressed and very depressed if it weren’t for people donating in any kind of way.

“I have also spoken to many volunteers and they always say they get benefits such as friendship from donating their time here as well as helping us families out.”

For Natalie, the end of her lengthy stay is in sight and she looks forward to seeing son Zakary, who has been cared for by her parents since Addison’s birth. Her daughter may be discharged within eight weeks and sent home with a pump to supply nutrition through a central line for an extended time.

“There is no timeframe for her recovery as with short gut children, it is just a matter of time to see whether or not their condition improves as the bowel grows,” Natalie says.

Despite the challenges of the past eight months, Natalie says she “will miss the house and everybody in it once we go home”.

“The staff at the house have been more than excellent, they go above and beyond to help us in any way possible and make us feel right at home. It has been a lifesaver for me and many other families who I now have lifelong friendships with,” she says.