Brave brothers from bush battle illness together
In just less than a month, brothers Mitchell and Connor went from healthy little boys to being admitted into intensive care more than 380km away from their home in Dubbo.
After complaining about stomach pains and losing his appetite in January, six-year-old Mitchell was flown to Westmead Children's hospital immediately.
His parents Jeremy and Erin were left devastated after their son was diagnosed with Stage 4 Nueroblastoma with metastases in the lung, lymph nodes, bone marrow, and bones.
"After he didn't respond to panadol and antiemetics, we insisted on an abdominal ultrasound which he had and it showed Mitchell had a large tumour in his abdomen," Ms Ray, a hospital dietitian, said.
"I was four days away from the scheduled delivery of our third child, so I stayed behind in Dubbo with our daughter Hannah while Jeremy and Mitchell flew to Sydney and were admitted to intensive care.
"Chemotherapy began on the same day that his brother Connor was born, and we're expecting around an 18 month treatment plan involving surgery, stem cell transplant, radiation and immunotherapy."
But the family suffered a further blow after Mitchell's one-month-old brother, Connor, also became unwell and was admitted into hospital in February where he was diagnosed with severe laryngomalacia - the softening of the voice box.
"He had to have two surgeries to open his airway, the first at four weeks and the second at six weeks," Ms Ray said.
"Connor has been out of hospital for two months and continues to work with outpatient teams.
"He was able to have his feeding tube out this week…..but he is still dependent on CPAP for the sleep apnoea, and will just take time to see if any of this resolves."
For the next 548 nights, the Ray family will be calling the Ronald McDonald House as they support each other through the biggest challenge of their lives.
Each year the Ronald McDonald House provides accommodation, meals, education programs and support to over 2,000 families at their 60 room purpose-built House in Westmead.
Most families, including the Ray's who stay at the Westmead House, live over 100km from the hospital and costs around $160 per night to accommodate each family.
"Being able to stay at Ronald McDonald House has meant that we've been able to stay together as a family, which means everything to us," Ms Ray said.
"It's been stressful having two kids unwell at the same time, but we just keep looking forward to the times when Mitchell is between treatments and able to be with us at Ronald McDonald House.
"I have limited time with Mitchell for example when he is in hospital, as only one parent is allowed with Mitchell at any time and no siblings can visit, so I get to enjoy him for a short time then spend the rest of the day caring for his siblings."
People can donate and share their messages of support with Mitchell and his family on www.standwithmitchell.com, and help keep other families with seriously ill children together during treatment.
Originally published as Brave brothers from bush battle illness together