Ayla with Rosie and her siblings

Wheeler Family Story

I quickly went home and packed a bag with a couple of changes of clothes, drove to Kalgoorlie, and then never went home again - Ayla, Rosie's mum

It was a Friday morning that started like any other. Ayla’s husband Ben went to work, she dropped two of her kids, Cassie and Raiden, at school. But for her then 5-year-old daughter Rosie, it was a trip to the local GP after she had been experiencing some minor nosebleeds and her teachers had reported she was falling asleep in class.

Unfortunately, this visit quickly turned into a 230km journey to the nearest hospital in Kalgoorlie.

The Wheeler Family in the dining room at RMH at QEII
The Wheeler Family in the dining room of Ronald McDonald House at QEII
Rosie in the dining room of RMH at QEII
Rosie in the dining room of Ronald McDonald House at QEII

Not long after arriving, Rosie underwent a blood transfusion, and they were put on a plane to Perth Children’s Hospital for further testing.

Upon arriving in Perth late that night, Rosie was diagnosed with High-Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

“You hear about things like this, but you never think it’s going to be you.” says Ayla.

Far from the comforts and support of home, a social worker referred them to Ronald McDonald House Charities WA (RMHC WA) and shortly after Ben, Cassie and Raiden flew to Perth to be by their side.

What the family didn’t know at the time was the long journey that lay ahead.

Fast-forward to June 2024, Ayla and Rosie still haven’t returned home and for the past 18 months (and counting) they have called RMHC WA their home-away-from-home.

“I don’t even know how we would be functioning without it. I don’t know if we would’ve been able to find somewhere to live and I don’t know if mentally I would be in the same place.

I’ve got no one in Perth. Unless my family makes the 800km journey to visit, we are completely on our own. To have a support network here has been huge for my mental health.

We’ve met a lot of beautiful families here, but everyone comes and goes. The staff and volunteers are always here – they have been our constant.” Ayla says

The entire family has had to adjust to a new normal. Ayla’s husband Ben is based in Leonora where Cassie and Raiden are in school, and he works to keep the family financially afloat.

Despite monthly visits, spending time apart from Cassie and Raiden has been particularly difficult for Ayla. But when they do come to visit, RMHC WA provides a space for them to soak up much-needed quality time and focus on what’s most important – being together.

“Everyone knows them. The volunteers even know what they like to eat. They come back and it’s like they never left.” says Ayla.

Having now spent two Christmases at RMHC WA, Ayla hoped she and Rosie could return home in March of this year. However, due to several hospitalizations since September and no fee-free accommodation options in Kalgoorlie, Rosie’s doctors are concerned that the 2.5-hour drive to the nearest hospital is too far from adequate medical support.

Their journey may be far from over and despite the uncertainty that lies ahead, there’s one thing they know for sure: RMHC WA will always be there for them for as long and as often as they need it.

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Acknowledgement of Country

Ronald McDonald House Charities WA proudly cares for families on Whadjuk Noongar Boodjar. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this land, the Noongar People and the Traditional Custodians, the Whadjuk People.

We pay respects to Elders past and present for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Indigenous Australia.