No parent ever imagines spending their child's first Christmas in hospital.
Sadly, that's the reality Scott and Kylie faced after their baby Abigail was born with a congenital heart defect.
At just two weeks old, Abigail suddenly turned blue. Mum Kylie remembers the terrifying moment doctors told them their baby girl might not survive.
"We were numb with shock. We knew we had an agonising road ahead of us," she said.
Abigail was immediately transferred from Adelaide to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital for life-saving open heart surgery.
"We soon discovered what a strong, determined little fighter she was," her mum said.
Their little girl would need that fighting spirit to get through the grueling months ahead when she needed to undergo her second open heart surgery.
Thankfully, the family had Starlight in hospital helping them cope with the unimaginable pain and trauma.
"Starlight was there for us from day one. I remember sitting in the Starlight Express Room and making a decorative sign for Abigail's hospital bed that said: 'Pink and Bling is Our Thing.' It became our family motto," Kylie said.
After her second operation, the family had hoped Abigail would be well enough to fly home to Adelaide for their first family Christmas.
"We were supposed to leave hospital on Christmas Eve, but Abigail developed septicemia and was placed in intensive care on a ventilator. We never imagined Christmas could be filled with so much pain and fear," Kylie said.
During this traumatic time, Starlight helped bring the family moments of joy and happiness. The Captain Starlights came to see Abigail and sang Christmas songs which brought a smile to her face.
"Of course you always dream of having your first Christmas at home, but you have to take everything as it comes with a sick child. Thankfully Starlight helped bring the fun and joy we needed at that time."
After New Year, Abigail was moved to Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital where she stayed for a further two weeks.
On her 1st Birthday, after nearly four months in hospital, Abigail finally went home.
Now eight, Abigail needs regular ongoing treatment in hospital. It means she has sadly missed many special family occasions over the years including Easter, birthdays and another Christmas when she was four.
The demands of hospital impact the whole family. Kylie had to reduce her working hours to care for Abigail full-time. And as parents, her and dad Scott rarely have any time together which adds to the immense strain they’re under.
Abigail gets tired easily and has to be extremely careful of infections which put her health at serious risk. She spent six months in isolation in one year alone and missed her friends and school terribly.
"Abigail struggles emotionally with anxiety. She's not able to do what her peers can do and thinks it's unfair she has to go to hospital for yet more blood tests when her friends don't have to," her mum says.
Thankfully, Captain Starlight helps Abigail cope with the fear and stress of every hospital visit.
Whenever Abigail is nervous about hospital, her mum and dad remind her of the fun of Captain Starlight which helps distract her and turns her negative thoughts around.
"Starlight is our reward for Abigail. Knowing that after all the awful parts of hospital are over, Captain Starlight will bring her joy, makes all the difference. Even on her roughest days, the Captains will have her laughing again in minutes."
Starlight also gives Kylie and Scott vital respite. "As parents, we are drained emotionally from Abigail's treatment. Seeing her smiling and laughing builds our spirits up to carry on," Kylie says.
Despite everything she goes through, Abigail is extremely outgoing and loves piano, jazz, tap and ballet. She loves performing on Starlight TV helping to entertain other kids in hospital. Singing and playing music with Captain Starlight helps shift her focus away from her illness.
Last year, Abigail also had a Starlight Wish to perform at the Sydney Opera House, and one of the highlights was the surprise arrival of one her favourite singing and dancing Captains Starlights!
"I truly believe Abigail's mental health would be in a terrible place without that positivity. I don’t think she would have her passion for performing without Captain Starlight."
The family is so thankful to Starlight supporters for helping them through the darkest times. "Starlight has given Abigail the confidence and the ability to face her fears. Hospital becomes a happy place for her and we can never have enough words to express our gratitude."