For Anabela, one of the most exciting things about living in a house for the first time is going to the letterbox at the end of the garden to check for mail!
Despite living with a series of complex medical conditions, the six-year-old always finds the positive side of life.
Shortly after she was born, Anabela was diagnosed with Spina Bifida, Complex VACTERL Association, Tethered Cord Syndrome and Scoliosis, and a long list of other conditions.
Anabela was also born with Microtia Atresia Grade 3 meaning she does not have an outer right ear and without her ear canal rendering her with a conductive hearing loss. Anabela also has Hemifacial Microsomia, a condition in which the lower half of one side of the face is underdeveloped and does not grow normally.
She had her first lifesaving surgery when she was just 48 hours old. Anabela was born unable to swallow and was drowning in her own saliva.
Despite the overwhelming trauma of the situation, mum Sarah tried her best to remain optimistic. "Her diagnoses didn’t matter. Anabela was alive and breathing and that's all I focused on," Sarah said.
Since then, hospital has been an ongoing fixture in Anabela’s life. She has had over 35 general anaesthetics and over 400 trips to hospital. Anabela often sleeps with a life support machine to monitor if her breathing stops. At times, Sydney Children's Hospital felt like a second home.
Anabela also recently travelled to Boston for life-saving surgery. In the past 12months Anabela has been so brave.
"It's just a rollercoaster. I never thought I'd be in a frightening situation like this," mum said.
Anabela gets fatigued very easily, and the amount of pain she lives with takes a lot out of her emotionally and physically. "She doesn’t get to do all the things she wants to do, like jumping on the trampoline and gymnastics. But while her medical situation limits her, it doesn't let it stop her," Sarah explains.
Single mum Sarah is Anabela's full-time carer. Juggling all her medical needs can be exhausting while also trying to keep her daughter’s spirits up. Anabela has spent a lot of time isolated due to her high risk health issues and has missed months of pre-school and school.
Thankfully Starlight is there helping Anabela and her mum through their toughest times. Having fun with Captain Starlight helps Anabela cope with the pain and fear of hospital.
"Her face lights up as soon as the Captains enter the room. Hospital just wouldn't be the same without them," Sarah said.
Anabela was over the moon when she was made an 'honorary captain' called Captain Bubbles!
Captain Starlight helps distract Anabela from her treatments and makes her time in hospital much happier. Sarah says Starlight helps her feel less alone as a parent.
"Starlight is so important. Without it, hospital would be scary, daunting and lonely for both parent and child. The Captains bring positivity, sunshine and light into the darkest of places."
As soon as Anabela found out her Starlight Wish had been granted, she asked for her very own cubby house in back garden at home. She was so excited about her new 'Den' - named after her favourite TV show The Dengineers. In the lead up to the big day, Anabela helped pick the cubby house colours and designs - rainbow on the outside and pink on the inside with a princess unicorn theme! Sarah says the anticipation and planning of the wish brought them so much joy and gave Anabela something positive to focus on.
"We talked about the wish every day. It felt like a dream come true. Anabela even asked for a unicorn to live there and pink walkie-talkies so I can bring her hot chocolates!"
Once the pink paint was dry and the final sparkly touches were complete, the cubby was ready. But there was an even bigger surprise in store for Anabela.
She arrived home to a celebrity welcome live on Channel 7's Sunrise breakfast show. Anabela walked the red carpet up her driveway with her friends, family and Captain Starlights cheering her on.
Anabela was so excited as she opened the door to her new 'den,' complete with play kitchen, a space for dancing, toys, games and dress ups. Her cubby also has a slide and a rock-climbing wall to help with her physical therapy. When asked what her Starlight Wish means to her daughter, Sarah said the following:
"It means the world Anabela to have a space to call her own. It's going to mean many happy birthdays and many hours happily playing with her friends after school. I'm so humbled by the generosity of so many people making this happen for us."
And most importantly, Anabela's cubby house has its very own mail box!