Rhonda and Alex had done all the regular pre-natal checks before the birth of their first child Bella and were expecting a healthy baby.
Understandably the young couple was stunned when Bella was born and she wasn’t breathing. The doctors immediately hooked her up to machines and raced her in an ambulance to the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH).
“They were talking about a tracheostomy, a gastrostomy, a jejunostomy... all I knew is that I had a daughter and they were going to do a lot of work on her.” – Alex
Bella, now 10 years old, has spent much of her young life in hospital, particularly her first three years when the family actually lived at the hospital. She has had more than 50 surgeries, and has had to live most of her life with a tracheostomy (a tube inserted in her neck to help Bella breathe).
The Starlight Express Room has been integral to the family and their ability to cope. “Bella loves being in a happy place different from the hospital world, where she doesn’t have to think about being prodded or poked.”
Bella’s favourite things to do in the Starlight Express Room are singing and dancing, and she loves doing the craft. Bella also relies on Captain Starlight to help distract her while she endures painful needles and breathing tests.
“Bella was a person that we couldn’t leave on her own unless she was with someone trained to look after her. The important thing was that Captain Starlight would entertain her and we could just sit and drop back and go off into our own place for a little while, and for me that’s what I needed at that time.” – Alex
The Starlight Express Room has been a second home for the whole family, including younger sister Katherine as well as mum and dad, allowing them all an escape from the stress of hospital life.
“Being in hospital there are a lot of awful memories, so it’s nice to have the memories of Starlight and the funny things happening in the Starlight Express Room and just watching the kids be happy.” – Rhonda