Making difference to sick kids' lives

By Martine Rolls


One of the stories that stood out for me was the one about Zahnee Campbell.I AM not a religious person but every day I thank God to be blessed with my two little boys who are boisterous, happy and healthy. It may seem like the most normal thing in the world but I know that not everyone is that lucky.

Since I am a parent, I am even more touched by stories in the news about families with little ones struggling with serious illnesses.

These are the stories of families in need of support and I am always impressed by the amount of people willing to help out.

Setting up a Facebook page for a good cause is free and it is an effective way to reach a lot of people. And I am also grateful that our newspaper, website and social media pages can sometimes help to make a difference.

One of the stories that stood out for me in the past few months was the one about now 6-year-old Zahnee Campbell from Papamoa.

The story of this brave little girl, covered by Ellen Irvine and Michele McPherson, first featured in the Bay of Plenty Times in April.

Zahnee was born with an extensive vascular hemangioma, which is a birthmark but referred to medically as a tumour.

The tumour covered the right side of her face and went over her head, down her back and into her throat.

Due to pressure the tumour was placing on her brain and throat, she was put on a high dose of steroids for two years to reduce inflammation.

The steroids, which put Zahnee in a "zombie-like state", also affected her growth and posture.

Zahnee, who also has Asperger's syndrome, has been under the care of different specialists, and had numerous operations and MRIs in her short life. Fortunately, the tumour has a finite life cycle and has gradually faded, but she was left with long-term effects such as poor sight and an incorrect positioning of her eye.

Zahnee's mum, Jade Riley, set up a Facebook page to raise awareness for her daughter's condition, and to raise funds for Zahnee's operation.

Thanks to a nearly $70,000 fundraising effort by her determined mother and the generosity of many, Zahnee returned from New York at Labour Weekend after having a successful and life-changing operation.

This story, thankfully, had a happy ending, which draws my attention to baby Sativa, another brave girl from the Bay.

One of my Facebook friends asked me to take a look at the page "Please help Baby Sativa & her Family fight Leukaemia".

At just 4 months of age, Sativa Eagle was admitted to Starship Children's hospital to start her fight against Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

For the last nine months, Sativa's parents Sheree Roose and Tim Eagle, who have two other young children to care for, have travelled to and from Auckland, where their baby has to undergo harrowing chemotherapy treatment.

Now 13 months old, Sativa has spent fewer than 50 days at home since her diagnosis and collected about 1000 coloured beads, each representing an event or procedure on her cancer journey - a course of antibiotics, a fever, a lumber puncture or losing her hair.

Having watched the couple's struggle over the past year, one of their friends, Laura Rowe, contacted the Bay of Plenty Times asking if anyone could offer them some help.

We were happy to run a story, which was published last week, and we have posted the link on facebook.com/bayofplentytimes. Since then, there have been some truly heart-warming reactions.

People are making donations, large and small. Others are organising more fundraisers to help this little girl and her family, such as Karl Downes, who is organising a charity motorbike ride on Saturday, December 10.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to Sativa's family can deposit funds in account number ANZ R Beaton 01-0434-0276055-03 or visit the Facebook page.

While we are on the subject, and if you take all this to heart as much as I do, you may as well have a look at Project Kids Pursuing Hope.

Project KPH is a registered charity which works to enable young people living with terminal illness, disease, and/or other special conditions to experience the rewards of realising their talents and dreams through unique projects that fit their passion and interests.

You can find them online on www.projectkph.co.nz and on Facebook by searching ProjectKPH.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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