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Thursday 23 September 2010

The Children's Hospital at Westmead - take a massive bow

(Photos: Estella in hospital lift with Liverpool FC necklace dad loaned her for good luck; daggy); a random pic she took of me before theatre; and recovering post-op).

This post is not about a fashion range, or new TV show, or anything superficial like that. It's about one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. And it happened today.

My daughter went in for surgery today - she had a dermoid cyst in her right eyelid - and it was a very distressing experience for us both. Maybe a little more for mummy; the events of today still linger, while little poppet is sleeping it off.

Dermoid cysts in babies develop in utero. So, at mere weeks gestation, the tiny little foetus that was Estella was growing the beginnings of this cyst in her eyelid. It only started to show itself about six months ago and today her surgery to remove it took place.

My experience was made infinitely better thanks to the staff at The Children's Hospital at Westmead. Everyone, and I do mean everyone - from security staff, to the lady at the [lowered] enquiries desk, to the volunteer elderly woman in a pink candy striped pinafore ushering us to the lift, to the admissions woman, to all the medical staff - were beyond amazing.

My first concern was how to convince a two (and three quarters) year old that she could not eat anything after 7am. Nor drink anything after 11am, for a 12.30pm admission. I asked the anaesthetist those questions (including what's the worst possible thing that could happen, and yes, it included that), and the registrar if she could have permanent damage around the eye area (yes, possible, but unlikely). By the time we were ushered into the theatre (I was gowned up and as we walked into theatre, Estella was casually walking, flicking through all my videos and photos in my iPhone... I am not kidding), I was almost grateful for her pending sedation so my tired, ravenous child could have a bit of a rest. And I could hopefully stop worrying. Turns out, I'd be far from 'grateful'.

They'd explained that they would slip a 'gas' mask on her face while I held her and after 30 or so seconds she'd cough and splutter a bit, then be 'out'. As they positioned the mask on her face, serious surgeons with colourful hairnets were blowing soap bubbles to divert Estella's attention (told you they were amazing) and within half a minute, Estella closed her eyes and flopped in my arms. Now, I've got to tell you, it's one of the most horrible things for a mum to see their child appear lifeless. They asked me to place her on the bed and I was... well, a total mess. One kind nurse herded me out quick smart, even after I begged to stay to see her anaesthetic be administered. They wouldn't have it, and out we went, sobbing down the hallway. The lovely nurse assured me that no parent ever copes with that. Even surgeons watching their own child go 'under' dissolve into a pool of tears.

The nice people at The Children's Hospital at Westmead continued to show themselves: the coffee shop people, the staff, even the other parents wheeling around sick kids. Earlier in the day, I'd experienced the kindness of an elderly volunteer female chaplain, doing the rounds checking in on the parents. Even a cheery duo of doctors carrying crutches to a waiting patient were happy. I mean, it was like scenes from the Robin Williams flick, Patch Adams.

I am not kidding when I say that a place in which you'd expect gloom was so bright and happy; it was like nothing I'd ever seen inside the walls of a hospital.

Post-op, and wow: relief. She made it through just fine. But they warned me a child coming off anaesthetic is a not a pretty sight. This wasn't a tantrum; it was what can be best described as a child gone totally feral. Coming off anaesthetic - plus a massive bandage across your head - would set off even an adult. And she went off. It took a few medical personnel to hold her down to take the bandage off. And then she slept. And awoke when other poor poppets were wheeled in. Then slept again. Within a couple of hours, cheeky bugger was playing with my iPhone again.

As I drove my car out of the carpark and into a 15 minute zone outside the hospital, the kind doctor monitoring my girl decided to bring her down to me to save me a trip back up. I mean, the kind gestures continued until the very end.

So, the very least I can do is give their renowned Teddy Bear's Picnic day a big plug.

The picnic will be held on Sunday 17 October from 10.30am to 4pm at Rosehill Gardens.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of this iconic event that raises significant funds to support the life-saving work of The Children's Hospital at Westmead. It's so cute to think that for three decades, families have been packing their teddy bears and picnic blankets and enjoying this event for a very special cause.

The 2010 Teddy Bears' Picnic will be jam-packed with fun activities for families including themed areas for the first time this year: Adventure Land, Fern Tree Gully and Hundred and One Acre Wood.

Kids can enjoy rides, art and crafts, sporting clinics, meeting celebrities, face painting, prizes, toy testing and a special Bear Clinic, where your child can have their bear's health checked by a beary-special bear doctor.

Other highlights will be at centre stage, where Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the crew from Lazy Town will be performing.

There is one low ticket price which covers entry and all activities. Tickets, on sale now, are $20 each or $60 for a family of four (kids under 12 months are free). http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/

And any child carrying their teddy to the event will travel free on Cityrail trains, or they wll have free parking at Rosehill Gardens.

Other highlights?

The 'Wild Aussies' show featuring Australia's most endangered aquatic animal species; Angelina Ballerina and My Friend Mark at centre stage; Bunnings DIY kid's workshop; Channel 7 autograph signing; face painting; Kindifarm mobile animal farm; and loads more.

And if you can't attend but still want to help?

You can give help through the charity ticket drive (your donation will 'buy' tickets for disadvantaged families), with proceeds from these ticket sales helping the Children's Hospital at Westmead to provide exceptional care for sick children and their families by funding medical equipment and vital research into the causes and cures of childhood diseases.

Or, you could volunteer... They are looking for more than 500 volunteers to assist on the day. There are a wide range of activities to be involved in including face painting, rides, the bear clinic, hair spraying, temporary tattoos, crowd marshalling and much more.

As a volunteer you will receive free parking, an event T-shirt and cap as well as lunch and refreshments for the day.

To become a volunteer simply fill out this:

And schools can get involved too!

The 'School Stage' will showcase talented young performers from across NSW and is centre-stage for the famous Picnic Popstars Competition.
They also have a 'picnic popstar' comp, where you can win a great prize by singing and dancing to a song of your choice on the School Stage (karaoke machine available, if required). This contest is open to performers up to 12 years old.

Performances will be judged by Sara Groen from Channel 7, and one of their very own clown doctors. Entry into the contest is free but you need to register early as there are limited spots available. No entries are taken on the day.

Schools can also participate by hosting a 'Pyjama-Rama Picnic.'

Students and teachers can wear their pyjamas to school on a day chosen by them during September or November and each make a gold coin donation to The Children's Hospital at Westmead; and go in the draw to win a digital camera for your school.

Then there is a colouring-in competition for schools, where one winner will be selected from each year group (across NSW) and winners will receive a family ticket to the event or a Bandaged Bear merchandise pack.

If your school would like to be involved in the School Stage, hold a Pyjama-Rama Picnic or enter the colouring-in competition, phone Michelle Morgan on (02) 9845 3469 or email michel10@chw.edu.au

And if you work for a company that is interested in promoting itself at The Teddy Bears' Picnic, there are plenty of opportunities for your organisation to get involved and become part of the event. Call the special events team at events@chw.edu.au or call (02) 9845 3364.

For more information, see: www.chw.edu.au/tbp/


  1. My little sister had almost the same thing happen to her when she was around 2... trust me, I get it!

  2. Aw, thanks Muz, you gorgeous thing. Most distressing, isn't it... glad it's over x

  3. Get well soon Estella!!! Hugs from Uncle Frank and me xoxo Props to the hospital as well, sounds like they did an absolute stellar job!

  4. Hoping Estella is recovering beautifully and her Mummy's feeling better too xox

  5. Awww Josie, I loved reading this. You got me a little teary. I didn't know about Estella's operation. I hope she recovered well. Sounds like she handled it really well the precious little angel xoxo