First Wishlist Centre guest goes home

17 May 2023

AFTER nine months of gruelling treatment for one of the rarest forms of leukaemia, Gary McGrath is just happy to be back on his property in Gympie.

The 69-year-old pensioner was the first guest of Wishlist Centre – an affordable patient accommodation facility opposite the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

On Father’s Day last year, Mr McGrath collapsed while in the shower. He woke up in an ambulance on route to Gympie Hospital before being transferred to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.  

What followed was a whirlwind of tests and a diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML) - a rare sub-type of acute myeloid leukaemia which accounts for just 10 percent of all AML diagnoses.

Mr McGrath was the first to undergo care at Sunshine Coast Health and is also the first to successfully complete his treatment within the service.

“When one of the nurses said if it had been a week earlier, I would have gone to Brisbane. I was worried because my partner and everyone live up in Gympie so that would have been a major drive to come down and see me.”

Mr McGrath was thankful to be supported by Wishlist’s affordable hospital accommodation – first staying at Reed House, and then Wishlist Centre during his months of treatment.

“I was so far away from home, but it all fell into place. Having this accommodation – where I only had to walk across the road for treatment every day, made all the worry disappear.”

Mr McGrath is now in remission but to fight the most difficult type of leukaemia required taking several medications each day and being hooked up to a drip for chemotherapy for five days a week.

“I was in hospital at 7.30am and came back to Wishlist Centre at 3pm. I'd sit in the chair with the chemo going through.

“Chemo affects people in different ways - my issue was fatigue. Walking across the road and then walking back to your room – I had virtually everything I need in the room.

“If Wishlist Centre wasn't there - what was my alternative? There was none…

“I wouldn't have been able to drive and my partner works full time so she wouldn't have been able to have the time off. I was really grateful. I would have either had to say: ‘I can't do the treatment’ or stay in a hotel, but you'd have to win Lotto to stay in a hotel five days a week for week.”

Mr McGrath said he was thrilled to be back home and get back to a new normal.

“It’s great to be back home. Everything was on hold, so I have lots of catching up to do,” he said.

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