Athletes’ hospital visit shares spirit of the Games

Young patients being treated at Gold Coast University Hospital recently had the rare opportunity to meet with Commonwealth Games athletes face-to-face.

Gold Coast Hospital Foundation mascot Betty Get Better was thrilled to show athletes around the children’s ward, and introduce them to patients.

Many patients and family members were excited to meet sporting greats from the Kookaburras, Hockeyroos and both the Australian Table Tennis and Boxing teams. This was especially because few people from the estimated 1.5 million spectators will have an opportunity to see athletes up-close.

“It was amazing, I have always wanted to be athletic but I never had the opportunity [to try]. There is [now] a [good] reason to get better,” teenager Charlotte Chatwood (pictured centre) said in a televised interview.

Another patient, Ethan Heley, was excited to meet sporting greats from the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos. His mother, Keltie, said the athletes’ visit could not have come at a better time for Ethan.

“I think this is something he will be able to treasure for the rest of his life, and especially being a challenging time for him,” Keltie Foster said in an interview.

Daniel Beale from the Kookaburras was very pleased to help relieve medical hardship for local patients.

“Whenever we get the opportunity to go in and possibly make a change in their day, we jump at the chance,” Beale said at a press conference.

Renee Taylor from the Hockeyroos was impressed by the 300-strong contingent of volunteers at the hospital.

“Even just speaking to the volunteers, everyone is saying Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” Taylor said at a press conference.

A second chance at life at 23

When Georgia McLennan (pictured) was diagnosed with a deadly rare lymphoma at the age of just 23, doctors couldn’t believe she was still alive. She seemed so healthy and vibrant, with none of the usual symptoms presented by this type of cancer. Yet PET scans showed a very different story to her outward appearance, the disease having spread through much of her body including her lungs, breasts, liver, spleen … even growing in her fat.

It all started on New Year’s Eve 2015, when Georgia started experiencing severe pains in her chest. Georgia was beyond frustrated. She was studying nursing full-time while working part-time in a pharmacy dispensary and while she continued to push herself to continue, everything was becoming more and more unbearable. This went on for about three months when another doctor finally determined she didn’t have a stomach ulcer at all but, in fact, tumours on her spleen and liver.

Georgia was given an ultrasound which showed fluid where it shouldn’t be. She was kept in overnight and a cannula placed in her arm for a drip. However, the PET scan revealed just how dire the situation was. By this time Georgia said she was so swollen she looked six months pregnant with the scan revealing the cancer had spread through much of her body … her lungs, breasts, liver, spleen, even growing in her fat. Tests revealed the cancer originated in Georgia’s spleen and that it was actually a rare type of blood cancer called Burkitt’s Lymphoma.

While this was good news for Georgia who appreciated it had a better outcome than other cancers, it was devastating for her partner Tawanda, whose best friend died of the disease in Africa where it is more prevalent. Georgia had three months of daily chemotherapy and spinal injections about every two weeks. And while chemotherapy often makes patients feel worse, Georgia, who was already tired and in pain, found immediate relief.

“It weirdly made me feel great. In fact, the pain stopped after the very first round. And I could see my stomach returning to its normal size. I spent a lot of my time in the Gold Coast University Hospital’s chemotherapy chairs. It’s so important to be comfortable when you have chemo. You’re feeling sick most of time and in pain. They lie down too which I needed because the spinal injections gave me very bad headaches which eased if I lay down,” she said.

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Critical need for chemotherapy chairs

Whether it’s the growing Gold Coast population or that more people are undergoing cancer treatment, but the need for chemotherapy chairs at the Gold Coast University Hospital has never been more critical.

The highly-specialised chairs cost $5000 each and Lisa Roberts, Service Director, Cancer, Blood and Palliative Services for Gold Coast Health, says they play a crucial role in cancer treatment.

“When we moved from the old Gold Coast Hospital at Southport in 2013 we only had 11 chairs but in the past five years that number has grown to in excess of 22,” Ms Roberts said.

“Previously we couldn’t expand due to limited space and many patients had to go to Brisbane for treatment. Now we treat about 1600 patients a month through that unit and in those chairs, and that number is only increasing. Our graphs show it is on an upwards trajectory.”

The unit now treats about 19,200 a year – a 6 per cent rise on the same time the previous year. And it’s a percentage increase that has been reasonably consistent year on year, at times even as high as 10 per cent.

Click here to read the full media release.