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Real Stories

Sophie and Christine: “It was all too much for Sophie’s little body”

“That night, when Sophie was diagnosed with cancer, her organs were already shutting down.” Christine recalls.

Sophie was six years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Ear infections are common in childhood, but when six year old Sophie couldn’t shake hers off, her parents became worried. 

“The ear infections were getting worse every time and she was taking longer to bounce back,” recalls Christine, Sophie’s mother. “It got to the point where I’d pick her up from school and she would cry because her legs were too tired to walk to the car.” 

Sophie’s doctor sent her for blood tests. Just four hours later, she called and told Christine to drop what she was doing and take Sophie to the hospital immediately. 

Christine had no idea what was to come. When they arrived at the emergency department, Sophie was rushed off for more tests.

Christine realised in that moment that her little girl’s life was in danger when two doctors came to see her and her husband Paul. They were childhood cancer specialists. 

“When I saw their badges, I passed out. It was such a shock.  I never thought it could happen to someone I love, especially not my bright, happy, placid little girl.”

That night, Sophie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and her family’s lives changed in an instant. Her organs had started shutting down. From that moment, the hospital became their second home for many months. 

“It was all so overwhelming.” Sophie began chemotherapy straight away with Christine by her side.

Christine didn’t even have a change of clothes or a toothbrush. She didn’t step outside of the hospital and gone home for two weeks. 

Along with the emotional impact of learning her daughter needed life-saving treatment; Christine had to face the many practical challenges of juggling the long hospital stay along with family and work commitments. 

When it felt life couldn’t get any harder, a Redkite social worker reached out and placed a distinctive red bag in Christine’s exhausted arms. Inside Christine found an array of practical items to ‘get us through’ such as toiletries; shampoo and tissues, a teddy bear for Sophie to cuddle, a warm blanket and a coffee keep cup. The bag also included a diary to write down doctors’ names, take notes and record medications and vital information Christine and Paul could refer to throughout Sophie’s cancer experience. 

The Redkite Social Worker was also instrumental in helping Christine and Paul cope. “When we felt out of our depth he was there to help,” she says. “He was like our security blanket.” 

Christine explains that Sophie is a very placid little girl, but she was terrified of the medical procedures required to save her life. 

“You could hear her screams all through the hospital,” she recalls. “What helped was when the Redkite Music Therapist played some gentle music to calm her.” 

Another night stands out in Christine’s memory as it was the second time she nearly lost her Sophie.

“She had a toxic reaction to the build-up of chemotherapy in her body,” Christine said. “Her little body had just had as much as it could handle, and we nearly lost her. It was terrifying. I didn’t even get to see my other two children on Christmas day because Sophie was so sick that they couldn’t come into the hospital room,” Christine added.

”One night Sophie’s heart rate was so high, that no matter what doctors tried, they couldn’t bring it down. They rushed in the Redkite Music Therapist, who played to her for hours, and you could just see how her heart rate started going down. I truly believe it was the music therapist who saved her life that day,” Christine said.

However, help for Sophie and her family didn’t stop when she left hospital. Overall, she missed a year of school, and her big concern was having to repeat a year while her friends progressed. 

Through Redkite, Sophie was also able to access two terms of school tutoring, so she didn’t fall behind at school.

“There’s not a much bigger gift that you can give a child than being able to stay with their friends. It was really important for her.”

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