Every parent's worst nightmare became a stark reality for Kalena and her family when her 16-month-old son, Ari, fell critically ill, prompting an urgent trip to the emergency room.
What followed was a heart-wrenching journey, highlighting the significance of extending a helping hand to those in need.
After a week of unexplained high fevers and worrisome symptoms, Kalena’s instincts alerted her that something was amiss with her son.
Following doctor's appointments, x-rays, and tests, she found herself in the GP's office anxiously awaiting the results.
The GP looked at her and said: "I need to send you straight to the hospital," offering to call an ambulance.
Terrified and running on empty after a week of sleep deprivation with an unwell baby and her husband away in Mackay for work, she tried her best to stay calm for Ari's sake.
Shortly after arriving at SCUH, she watched her son’s health deteriorate rapidly in her arms with each passing hour.
The subsequent diagnosis revealed a concerning collection in his hip, needing urgent surgery.
Kalena’s husband raced against time to make it back to the Sunshine Coast but as Kalena sat there alone and terrified, she signed the waiver and put her trust in the medical team.
"I didn't think my husband was going to make it in time to see Ari before he went under."
Kalena started to feel overwhelmed with fear and sadness for her son who was in so much pain. She opted to take a moment while the team put in his cannula for the second time.
"I needed to cry, and boy, did I cry!"
This was her first encounter with Wishlist as she found solace and a moment of respite in the Wishlist Parents Retreat - a sanctuary amongst the chaos.
Ari and Kalena were taken down to the theatre for his first procedure. There is no greater heartache than feeling helpless and watching as your child is put under anaesthesia.
"I really wish I could shake the vision of his little body lying on the operating table with a mask on as they put him to sleep."
Ari's medical journey
With Ari undergoing surgery and subsequent medical procedures, Wishlist’s support became the cornerstone for the family.
The Wishlist-funded Parents Retreat offered Kalena much-needed rest, a shower, and a safe space to compose herself during the challenging moments of fear and uncertainty.
"No parent can ever truly prepare for an extended stay in the hospital with a sick child. Your world is turned upside down."
"It's a time filled with worry, fear, and uncertainty," Ari's mother Kalena explains.
Throughout their hospital stay, Ari's family encountered setbacks and challenges in his recovery. In these moments, Wishlist's support was invaluable.
Whether through the joy brought by clown doctor visits, the comfort of therapy dogs, or providing brief respites from the hospital environment, Wishlist's contributions played a crucial role in the family's healing journey.
"In the midst of these challenging moments, organisations like Wishlist shine as beacons of hope and support."
"Being able to wash our clothes was huge for us, as it saved someone having to go home with loads. Plus, having a coffee and watching 'And Just Like That' in the parent's retreat allowed me to forget that I was in a hospital for a while, which I needed for my mental health."
One of the most memorable highlights for the family was the therapy dog that gave them all a sense of home, as they all desperately missed their family dog, Tahoe, whom they had not been able to see during the hospital stay.
"We were all missing Tahoe (our dog) so much. It was so nice to have that connection."
"Being on the other side of a charity and getting to see just how involved they are was incredibly eye-opening. Knowing that the funds they raise go to helping people like us (and those who have much longer stays) has put more emphasis on us trying to find ways to give back in any way that we can," Kalena, Ari’s mum said.
Why your support makes a difference
Kalena’s heartfelt message echoes the importance of standing together to support organisations like Wishlist.
She advocates for acknowledging the immense impact of small acts of kindness and emphasises the need to rally behind these charity organisations, ensuring they can continue to be beacons of hope for those navigating through their darkest of hours.
"Organisations like Wishlist are lifelines for families facing medical challenges. They demonstrate that we are not alone in our struggles, that there are caring individuals and groups who genuinely want to ease our burdens.
"Let us support and cherish these organisations, for they embody the essence of empathy, love, and humanity.
"Together, we can make the hospital journey a little bit brighter for those who need it most."
Now, Ari is back home and on the path to recovery, a testament to the resilience and fortitude fostered by both the family and the support they received during their challenging journey.
Your contribution brings comfort and care to families in need.