by Richelle Koller, CEO Little Wings
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual
Little Wings is a not-for-profit organisation providing a free flight and ground transport service to seriously ill children and their families from the country who are needing specialised medical treatment at the Children’s Hospital in the city.
The Little Wings service helps to ease the journey for many rural and regional families by reducing the financial burden, travel fatigue and emotional stress of repetitive long distance travel and time spent away from home.
One such family who has been helped by Little Wings is Kathy Garland. Kathy’s life was turned upside down last year when her youngest daughter Ava was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Here, she talks about how Little Wings helped her through one of the toughest times of her life.
‘Ava was your typical bubbly three-year-old living on a farm between Forbes and West Wyalong with me, her dad and four big sisters. When she hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days, then turned a funny colour, I drove her to Forbes to see a doctor. I had no idea what lay ahead.
Blood tests showed Ava’s bone marrow wasn’t working properly. We were sent straight to Westmead Children’s Hospital. It was a Tuesday afternoon. By 1 am the next morning, doctors had diagnosed Ava with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, and it was in 8 per cent of her bone marrow. By 4 am, Ava was admitted to the oncology ward and started treatment.
Doctors set a treatment program for Ava that involved at least six months of intensive chemotherapy. After digesting the devastating news, my husband Andrew and I began rearranging our lives. My sister and her husband, stepped up and said they would look after our other girls in Orange. It was such a relief. Ava and I moved into Ronald McDonald House where we now stay when Ava isn’t in hospital.
That’s when Little Wings stepped in to help to keep us together as a family through this very difficult time.
When Ava was too ill to travel, Little Wings flew Andrew and the girls to Sydney to see us. After months of intensive chemo, Ava was allowed to go home for a few days and the charity flew us back to Forbes so we could spend some precious time together.
Ava was so excited to be going home, to play with her sisters and sleep in her own bed. When she saw her toys again it was like seeing them for the first time and she walked without a frame for the first time in 10 weeks. Going home was a huge step forward in her getting better.
The family reunions have helped immensely in Ava’s recovery. We live five and a half hours from Sydney and when Ava isn’t well from the chemo, driving is not an option.
Little Wings is extraordinary. I don’t know what we would have done if they hadn’t been there to help when we needed them. It was hard enough that our family was living apart for eight months. Ava and I would not have been able to get home at all and we would have seen very little of Andrew and the girls.
It is an absolute privilege to know the amazing team of volunteers and staff at Little Wings. We are eternally grateful to them for keeping our family together at such a difficult time.