Ok sorry for the show overload but I am a bit worried the opening will be a party of two as I don't know that many people in Sydney. A show was never the end goal for Katie's story but I am hoping to use it as part of a wider launch of her story which will hopefully see it making it into some mainstream media where she can be celebrated for the extraordinary person she is.

I thought it would be perfect

Asko of CPL with one of my prints

 Dodho contacted me a few weeks ago when shit had hit the fan in my life. Aside from everything else work has been insane. I like getting paid and all but I'll never understand why it is all clients need you desperately at once. I tell myself it's the payoff for having three weeks at Ron Mac House but never know why everything has to happen at once.

Anyways- I clicked on the link and could not believe what a beautifully designed site it was and just how great the work featured is.

 As I get closer to headon time, getting prints and media releases ready, being able to share more of Katie's story is becoming more invaluable as is the oppurtinity to let Katie know it's not just me that cares about her  story

In the two years I have known Katie I have never seen her cry. In fact it became a bit of a joke between us that I would have to take her a soppy DVD to get the tears flowing. She said to me on a few occasions that if she started she would be scared she wouldn't stop. She's had a motherfucker of a 2014 so far, anything that could go wrong has and the reality of things is weighing very hard on her. I've been trying to tell her it will get better, that this is just her time to wade through it and she will resurface happy again. She told me she doesn't know if she can take much more pain and honestly I wonder if she can too.

Bek, Dave and the girls

During most of my time in the house I barely spoke to Bek as she was constantly in the hospital with her twin daughters feeding and caring for them while they were starting to get ready to go home.  But I felt like I knew Bek because all of the other families in the house told me how much they had relied on her wisdom and kindness throughout their stay at the house. Bek is one of those women with a permanent smile on her face, she is warm, kind and a born nurturer. On my last day at the house I met her husband Dave who was equally warm and he told me about the events that lead to Scarlett and Isabella being born at 24 weeks. 

All of the stories I have shot for this series will be displayed along with the photos at an exhibition later this year. I cannot wait to share the stories of these people who so graciously let me into their lives.

Lance, Erin, Debbie and Nathan

When I first met up with the wonderful Cherie from RMH Monash I warned her I was a crier and there was every possibility I'd be a soggy mess talking to families. But I managed not to cry once at the house which for people that know me personally is an achievement.

In the second week she told me about Nathan and his family. She said Nathan had a horrible run of misdiagnosis and his family had spent months in the house before he was finally well enough to go home. She described his parents as lovely and said that Erin's mum, Debbie, was fantastic.

On the first day I introduced myself but felt like I sort of bombarded them with my fumbling spiel about what I was doing in the house. That night I felt like I had missed the mark and had been pushy and rude something I avoid. The next day I sat in the kitchen and Debbie sat down with a coffee. We started talking and before I knew I looked at the clock and two hours had passed. She is a fascinating, kind and wonderful woman who had arrived in Australia shortly after Nathan's early arrival of 24 weeks and now almost a year later was going home to Texas at the end of that week. Her daughter Erin came and sat with us and I felt slightly trepadatious after my chat the day before. But then Erin started talking. She told me the full story of Nathan- a baby she and her husband had so desperately wanted, born so early, expected not to make it, time spent in NICU, ICU and the wards. Misdiagnosis,  stress and pain. She opened up so completely to me that I think she even surprised herself, with tears rolling down her cheeks recounting what she had been through. Her sharing that story was incredible as was the next day when I met Nathan, a bubbly, chubby baby who was so different from the images I had seen on her iPhone of the months he was in hospital.

Each of the families I photographed have filled out an interview about their children and their time in the house. It was the best way we could think of having people share their own stories beside the photos when eventually exhibit the work.  Erin and Lance's is so eloquent when I read it a week later, in the privacy of my study, tears ran down my cheeks too.

Maddi and Sam

Maddi and Sam are twins that stayed in the house for 2 days while she had treatment that was no longer available in her local hospital in Tasmania. Her parents arrived tired after their first flight with the kids but were still open to talking about the journey that brought them to needing to us the house in the first place. Maddi has Cerebal Palsy and needed a procedure that helps her to walk and the Monash was the best place for it. The photos of her running through the house were taken a day before the procedure- she sized me up in the kitchen and then spent some time exploring the house and while I followed her. One thing her mother Amanda said to me that really stuck was not about Maddi but Sam. With prep looming she was trying to decide if she would send them to the same school as Sam has no special needs and she was concerned about him having to look after her. This little 4 year old told him mother that his sister is his best friend and of course he wanted her with him through school. After talking at length with parents who were worried about how children who are different will cope in a society that doesn't really know what to do with them, Sam's words brought a lot of comfort.

Bree and Lucas

  Lucas visits the intensive care ward he was first admitted to

The room he was in for 10 months 

 The mobile that hung over his Intensive Care crib

Bree and Lucas were the first people I met at RMH. Bree walked into the lounge room pushing her pram and as we chatted a little hand came around the side of the seat and Lucas pulled himself forward and looked me dead in the eye. I didn't know what he lead him to being in the house at that point but the intense way he looked at me made me burst out laughing and a huge small spread across his little face. And that was it- I was smitten and remain so.

Lucas spent 10 months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Monash.  He was paralysed from Botulism- a condition so rare and so deadly federal authorities had to be involved in collecting the antidote from California. He had to learn to breathe on his own again, the mark on his neck the last remnants of a "tracky" the Trachea that allowed him to breath without the aide of a ventilator. 

By the time I met them he was discharged from hospital and getting ready to go home to Mildura. Bree and I would sit and chat for hours about anything and everything. She is a remarkable woman and a phenomenal mother- taking what happened to her son and somehow finding something positive in it the way that only special people can. In the months when she waited by Lucas' beside waiting for signs of movement she was hardly at RMH, leaving the hospital late and night and returning early in the morning. So for me the timing of my residency could not have been better, I managed to meet an amazing woman and spend time with her beautiful son before she left Melbourne to re-start her life at home. 

Amanda, Ricky and Reed from Hamilton, Victoria

"I don't think Why me really because why not me? What makes me so special? Why should this happen to someone else instead of me when no one really deserves this?"

I met Amanda on the information session we held at the house the first week of my residency. She did not seem keen on being photographed and as we sat in a group I didn't feel like she would want to be involved at all. But as I started asking her questions she opened up completely. She sat and told us the story of her son Reed's birth, a tiny baby who came at 24 weeks, her fear during the labour, her fears in the weeks following as she watched her tiny baby from outside an incubator. She spoke in the most compelling way, with no resentment and no fear.

Over my time in the house we became fast friends- gossiping about bridezillas, talking about our partners and watching in awe as Reed changed from a tiny delicate baby behind glass covered in tubes to the last photo on this post. As Reed changed so did Amanda, lighting up when she saw him and bursting with pride when Reed's Dad Rick came to visit on the weekend.

Ronald McDonald House Monash

The Ronald McDonald House Monash  was set up next to the Monash Hospital in Clayton over 20 years ago. The house provides a home away from home for families of sick children who do not live in metro areas. Some families stay 24 hours, some stay for over a year with the house providing comfort and support for all who stay. I spent 3 weeks with the house documenting some of the families who called it home in that time.


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