Two Northland siblings have become comic book superheroes and have shared their hospital experiences in a bid to help other youngsters get through tough times.
Twins Sophia and Joseph Tebbutt, from Dargaville, are the stars of a new book called Medikidz Explain Ronald McDonald House.
The Tebbutt family have been frequent visitors at Ronald McDonald House, in Auckland, over nearly 10 years since Joseph was born with a series of medical complications which have required ongoing treatment at Starship, the national children's hospital.
The book, developed by Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and Education Publishers Medikidz, is aimed at helping siblings of patients understand and cope with having a brother or sister requiring specialist medical treatment and it will now be part of the induction process for all families.
The superheroes' supermum, Erica Tebbutt, said anything which helps families deal with an unexpected introduction to the hospital system was a bonus.
"It was overwhelming looking back on it now. Just about from the second they were born, Joseph was whipped away. You're like a deer caught in headlights so anything that can help parents and their children cope has to be beneficial."
Joseph uses a wheelchair permanently, due to a multitude of congenital issues. The comic book story line is based around the twins' experience, with Sophia being the main character. After Joseph is admitted to hospital, Sophia starts to feel left out but is fortunately spotted by Medicare kids in outer space.
They beam themselves down to Ronald McDonald House and Sophia is kitted out with a jet backpack and gives the visitors a guided tour of the facilities.
"Sophia is the hero of the book. She got to have a say in who she would like to see in the book. It was a great experience for all of us," Ms Tebbutt said.
"Having a fun and happy medium like a comic will help us parents explain the wider impact of illness or disability and that understanding will make the journey a little less scary."
Anne Kirkpatrick, RMHC director of operations, said every year thousands of children stayed. Some of these children are patients but the majority were the brothers and sisters of a patient. The siblings were also significantly impacted by the family's medical journey.
"These siblings are removed from their usual routine and their wider support networks to live at a Ronald McDonald House while having to cope with a critically ill sibling and the anxiety this causes," Ms Kirkpatrick said.
"Understandably, the focus of a family tends to be on the patient and we often see the siblings struggle emotionally; anxiety about the welfare of their sibling, adjusting to living in a new environment away from home, etc. We felt we needed an induction tool to address these common issues so the goal of the Medikidz book is to provide greater understanding and reassurance to the many siblings who stay with us."
She said the book would be a great help to families. To celebrate the launch of the book, RMHC organised a party to celebrate all the young heroes who stay at the house where Sophia and Joseph gave out the books to families for the first time.