Regional families with hospitalised children find comfort in “home away from home” in Perth

Sarah IsonGeraldton Guardian
Chelsea Cocking and her daughter Tahlea after her diagnosis in October. Chelsea has been staying in yhe Ronald McDonal House since then. Pic Mogens Johansen, The West Australian
Camera IconChelsea Cocking and her daughter Tahlea after her diagnosis in October. Chelsea has been staying in yhe Ronald McDonal House since then. Pic Mogens Johansen, The West Australian Credit: The West Australian

Dozens of regional families spent Christmas away from home with children being treated in metropolitan hospitals, but were lucky enough to have a place to celebrate the festive season in Perth.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities Western Australia provides free accommodation to families forced to temporarily relocate to the city with children diagnosed with serious and often life threatening illnesses.

While travelling away from home, friends and family is a challenge at the best of times, doing so over Christmas can be especially heart-wrenching.

With this in mind, the Ronald McDonald House left no holds barred this week, decorating every floor of their Nedlands facility, putting up a Christmas tree and even organising a visit from Santa himself.

A spokeswoman confirmed families were also provided a traditional Christmas lunch, complete with a turkey, prepared by the chef, along with other surprises.

“Perth Airport kindly donated Christmas hampers for all the families, but families don’t know this,” she said.

One family who has been in the Ronald McDonald House since October said the festive season had been rough, but still felt like Christmas at the house.

Geraldton mum Chelsea Cocking’s daughter Tahlea was admitted to Perth Children’s Hospital after being diagnosed with the life-threatening meningococcal virus, and was expected to remain there until May.

“It’s been really hard,” she said.

“We wanted to be back home with our family, but in saying that, being at Ronald McDonald house is so good, even though we’re not at home, it still felt like Christmas.”

Ms Cocking said in one sense, the house served as a home away from home and yet, it was also much more than that.

“It’s a little community and turned into a big family, going through same situation,” she said.

“We could all have a somewhat normal Christmas with new family around us.”

Without the free accommodation provided at the house, Ms Cocking’s three and five year olds would have had to be without her over Christmas.

The family will remain in the one bedroom apartment - complete with bathroom, double bed for Ms Cocking and her partner and a bunk bed for their other children – as her daughter continues healing after losing her fingers and toes to the disease.

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