At just eight months, Ollie went into heart failure and her parents Cory and Mandy were told to prepare for the worst; but Ollie fought and fought. She made it to the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital and against all odds, survived on an artificial heart for months, until a suitable donor heart was found. After her major operation, she recovered well; she learnt to walk and soon was a typical active, bright, happy toddler. Until she wasn’t.
Just before her second birthday, Ollie began getting sick and the doctors didn’t know why. After six hospital admissions, she had a two-hour Grand Mal (Tonic Clonic) seizure which left her with significant brain damage and severe epilepsy. No cause for her illness was ever identified.
Since that seizure in 2016, Ollie’s condition has continued to deteriorate into a severe refractory drug resistant epilepsy, which results in her suffering hundreds of seizures every day. A large percentage of which are “Atonic" drop seizures where she loses all muscle control and drops to the ground causing considerable damage if she’s not held by an adult or in a soft padded space. These seizures have resulted in significant injures which in some cases have required surgery.
Ollie hasn’t had a seizure free day since 2017. In fact, she stops breathing several times a day because of them. She is now developmentally delayed and intellectually impaired, and as a result, she can’t do everyday activities like dress, feed or go to the toilet by herself.
If that weren’t enough, Ollie’s heart transplant has compromised her immune system and what would normally be considered the mildest of bacterial or viral infections can often see her spending lengthy amounts of time in hospital. When Ollie gets sick her seizure threshold drops and can lead to status epilepticus (life threatening continuous seizures). After each extended hospital admission, Ollie has had to relearn fine and gross motor skills, like walking.
COVID-19 has further complicated things as she and her family are forced apart every time Ollie has been admitted to hospital - Ollie’s had over 20 unplanned hospital visits in the last 12 months, and in 2019 she was admitted nearly every 10 days.
As Ollie grows, her family are finding it increasingly difficult to support her daily physical and emotional needs. Consequently, her parents recently requested NDIS funding for a softly padded floating deck and electricity for her oxygen machine to be built-off in their backyard - so she had a safe outdoor place to play and grow. But they were turned down.
“After being knocked back twice by NDIS for an area that we know would give our beautiful, cheeky little girl the chance to thrive and live her best life, we were shattered,” Ollie’s parents said.
“Finding the right solution to help support her physically and emotionally has been hard, she has hundreds of seizures a day and is not safe in most places; the heat increases her seizures, she has no immune system, she’s on mutagenic medication and her development regresses easily, but she is so full of life and fights so hard to be here. We just want to give her the best opportunity to live her best life,” they said.
It was at this point – when they felt all was lost and facing huge medical bills – that Triple M heard their story, and stepped in.
“With the support of TAFE Queensland and Paynters, and the people of Brisbane, we will build Ollie’s padded floating deck. This family has been through enough, and little Ollie deserves a space where she can practice her walking, and be safe,” said Greg ‘Marto’ Martin from The Big Breakfast.
“The plan is to have the floating deck complete by Friday 21 May, so from now until then, we need Brisbane’s help. We are calling out for the community and trade companies to chip in, for donations, for building and fit-out materials to complete the project. This city has a huge heart, together we can make Ollie’s life, and her family’s life, just that little bit better,” he said.
TAFE Queensland SkillsTech General Manager John Tucker said the training provider is excited to also jump in and lend a helping hand.
“TAFE Queensland is committed to not only providing the training and skills needed to support our state’s employers and industries, but most importantly we are committed to supporting the communities in which we also live and work in throughout Queensland.”
“When learning of her story, our trade teachers and apprentices jumped at the chance to get involved and help to provide a safe space for Ollie to play and explore without the risk of ending up back in hospital,” he said.
Queensland-based Design and Construction firm Paynters has eagerly jumped on board as Triple M’s construction partner, powering full steam ahead for the next four weeks.
Paynters General Manager and Director Brett Johnston said the opportunity to participate in supporting the family and Ollie was one that the Company could not go past.
“For us, we see this as a chance to give something back to our local community. We look forward to assisting in bringing this project to fruition with the help of our tradie network and Brisbane locals,” Mr Johnston said.
“Paynters will make it their mission to create an environment that will have such a positive impact on Ollie and her family,” he said.
Ollie’s parents have been blown away by the show of support they have received by Triple M, TAFE Queensland and Paynters.
“Not only will this help build Ollie’s strength and help her develop in all developmental areas, but it will also give her the freedom and enjoyment to be a little girl, to play in her own space and to be able to play outside,” Ollie’s parents said.
“This will be a life saver for our family. Words cannot really express how thankful we are that everyday people would invest in Ollie’s future,” they said.