Family torn by illness

By Lin Ferguson

A young Wanganui family has been split by the sudden traumatic illness of their 3-year-old daughter, who was urgently flown to Auckland's Starship hospital in January.

Charlotte Stewart underwent urgent brain surgery for a ruptured brain aneurism at Starship on her third birthday on Sunday, January 14.

Parents Ange and Tony Stewart said they thought Charlotte just had a tummy bug.

"But then we couldn't wake her up and were really frightened she had meningitis. We rushed to Wanganui Hospital, and they were just incredible. Everything happened so fast ... we were in that plane and landing in Auckland. There was no delay at all. Everyone was amazing."

Unfortunately, the couple have had to leave their young son in Wanganui with his grandparents.

"He's been up here a couple of times, but it's not good for him to be here ... it's not great for any of us," Mr Stewart said.

However, the family was in it for the long haul, he said.

"Charlotte has just been moved to the special Wilson Rehabilitation Unit on the North Shore for probably about two months because she has had a series of strokes."

Mr Stewart said that, unfortunately, further surgery was needed because part of the aneurism was still there.

"It's just so big they couldn't get it all."

And for the family, it was simply living one day at a time, he said.

"Charlotte has good days and bad days, and she may have huge problems for the rest of her life. We're hoping not."

Mr Stewart, an engineer, said his boss had been "brilliant".

"I did get back to work for about a week while Ange stayed up here, but then Charlotte was having problems and I just had to get back ... I don't know when I'll get back to work. My boss and I will be talking about it later today."

The couple say they are just so thankful to Starship and the air ambulance and how everything was done so quickly with the condition of their little girl uppermost.

The Starship Foundation has announced it has raised $2 million from more than 650,000 phones donated to the Starship Mobile Phone Appeal since the campaign was launched four years ago.

The money helps fund the Starship National Air Ambulance Service which flies top medical experts to life-threatening emergencies around the country. "It's an incredible service," Mr Stewart said.

Unwanted mobile phones are lifesaving treasure to the national children's hospital.

The $2 million milestone was celebrated yesterday at Starship Children's Hospital with Prime Minister John Key donating a phone to start the ball rolling towards the next $2 million for the ongoing campaign.

To support other children like Charlotte and continue to help provide funds to the Starship National Air Ambulance Service, donate your old mobile phone at any Vodafone, Telecom, or 2degrees store. Phones can also be put in an envelope and posted to Starship Mobile Phone Recycling Appeal, Private Bag 208005, Highbrook, Manukau 2161, Freepost 223107.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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