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The Thistlewaites were so excited to add to their growing family. Mum Riona, dad Craig, and their children Emmett and Molly couldn’t wait to meet their expected new addition, a baby boy they’d already named Finn.
“My husband Craig and I were excited to add to our little family. We bought a cot, car seat and all the clothes. Everything was all prepared,” Riona said.
Little did the Thistlewaites know that their next appointment with their obstetrician would turn their world upside down and that Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) North Australia would become their saviour.
“I knew it was bad when the obstetrician called and asked if Craig could come to the appointment with me. We were told that there was a zero chance that Finn would survive - zero! The only variable was how long he would be alive. A week, a day… they didn’t know,” she said.
The Thistlewaites were sent from Cairns to Townsville where Finn would be delivered and preparations for his funeral organised.
“We arrived at the Townsville Hospital and had to navigate through the swarm of expectant mothers in maternity, all asking when we were due - they were all so excited.
“Instead, Craig and I were discussing pain management for Finn and when to turn off his life support machine. Those few days were traumatic.
“Craig and I stumbled out of the hospital in a spin. We walked 100m and fell into the arms of complete strangers - the staff at Ronald McDonald House in Townsville.
“They took us to a quiet room and sat us down. I can’t remember the rest of that day, all I know is that I was cradled and protected by those wonderful people. We had somewhere to stay, we had food to eat and we had people caring for us, looking after us.”
“Finn was born by C-section the following day and as the doctors whisked him away to prepare for the worst, he let out one big cry. He was so beautiful,” said Craig.
“A while later we were taken to the neonatal intensive care unit to be with Finn. Every doctor surprisingly had a spring in their step and a shocked look on their faces, you could tell that something good was happening. To the amazement of the specialists, Finn was still alive and miraculously doing very well,” he said.
“Ronald McDonald House was so pivotal during Finn’s birth, not only logistically by keeping our family together by giving us a place to stay close to the hospital - it was the personal connection when we were most vulnerable,” Riona said.
Finn’s journey with RMHC is far from over. His condition is so rare that he’s only one of two in the world. The Thistlewaites continue to travel to Brisbane every three months so Finn can receive regular care from specialists.
“It’s through the trauma and hardship that you find out who you are and who your friends are. Through the hard times we have found a friend in the Ronald McDonald House family.”
Finn continues to beat the odds and will very excitingly celebrate his second birthday on 17 January.