Ezekiel’s hospital journey

When cases of COVID-19 began to spike in Australia, Venita Coutts made the decision to take her 11-year-old son Ezekiel out of school. If Ezekiel contracted coronavirus his parents were extremely worried about the effect it would have on his health.

Ezekiel suffers from chronic kidney, liver, and lung diseases; conditions he was born with and have resulted in regular visits to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital since birth.

“Without the Hospital Ezekiel wouldn’t be here today. The nurses and doctors who have cared for him have always been so professional and caring,” Venita said.

Despite self-isolating for three weeks, Ezekiel became incredibly unwell in late-March, with what looked like a type of pneumonia, and was rushed to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital via Medivac flight from their hometown, Mount Gambier.

“Ezekiel has been flown to Hospital many times before and, like I have done previously, I raced back home to collect our belongings before the plane arrived,” Venita said.

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Ezekiel has spent a lot of time being cared for in the Women's and Children's Hospital.

Since birth Ezekiel has spent a lot of time receiving care in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

However, this time was different. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Venita wasn’t able to accompany her son on the emergency flight as she normally would. Instead she drove five hours to Adelaide early the next morning.

“I was devastated. That moment was so heartbreaking for me as I couldn’t be with my son who was so sick, but the doctors took exceptional care of him and rang me close to midnight to say they had arrived safely at the Hospital,” she said.

Ezekiel was initially admitted into the ward assigned to COVID-19 patients where they tested him for coronavirus plus other viral and bacterial infections.

Venita said, “He was showing symptoms for a virus and I just kept thinking how could he have contracted it? We had had him at home.”

Each test thankfully came back with a negative result, and he was later diagnosed with severe sepsis due to an unknown cause.

“He was moved into the intensive care unit and placed on three different IV antibiotics, which brought the infection under control,” Venita said.

Ezekiel’s story is just one of hundreds that show health conditions children have battled long before coronavirus don’t stop during the pandemic. The care they require at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital continues to be vital.

“The infection was so cruel and horrible for Ezekiel and it broke my heart to watch him put up with so much in just 12 days. It was enough to last a lifetime.”

When Ezekiel had been admitted to Hospital in the past, another family member or his dad, Allan, had always been at his side to offer support. However, this time due to the COVID-19 regulations and infection prevention, just one consistent support person could be at a patient’s side.

Venita said she found the 12-night hospital stay quite surreal.

“Even though Ezekiel didn’t have coronavirus, the changes made in the Hospital due to the pandemic had a big impact on our time.”

“I was told to limit my time outside the Hospital to just when I had to move our car. This meant I left the Hospital every couple of days and as the cafes and shops were closed my meals were delivered to our room.”

Now back home in Mount Gambier, Ezekiel has recovered and is increasing the number of hours he goes to school each day.

Venita said, “After being at the Hospital and speaking with the nurses, I felt a lot calmer about how prepared the Hospital is if we did have an outbreak of coronavirus in South Australia. To see the precautions put in place was reassuring.”

Ezekiel has spent a lot of time being cared for in the Women's and Children's Hospital.

Ezekiel’s hobbies include playing with Lego and video games. He also likes swimming and has begun to play the trumpet.

To learn more about how the WCH Foundation is responding to the priority needs of the Hospital and patients, like Ezekiel, through these unprecedented times, click here.


Madi’s story: her road to getting home

“Mum’s lasagne, our pet dogs and the TV in my bedroom.” That is the response from Madi Fox when asked what she missed most about her family home while in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Madi is one of almost one million Australian children and young people admitted to hospital each year, and after spending more than six months in the WCH, Madi has experienced what it is like to feel home sick.

Young girl smiling on a swing with her mother

Madi Fox with mother, Sally, four years after her accident.

Almost four years ago, Madi – who was nine at the time – was hit by a car, while walking Bentley, her family’s dog in the Adelaide Hills. She sustained a traumatic head injury and had bleeding on her brain.

“It changed our lives forever,” Madi’s mum, Sally said.

“Madi’s friend came rushing through the door saying that Madi had been hit by a car. They had been walking a street away from our house. I ran to Madi and a lady was giving her CPR.

“When the ambulances arrived, Madi was transported in one and I was in the other. The ambulance driver told me to call a family member and that Madi’s condition was serious. I was praying for a miracle from the start.”

Madi spent almost three weeks in an induced coma, followed by six months in the Kate Hill Ward.

“It was 55 days before we had any response from her. The first sign from Madi showing she could hear us was a thumbs up,” Sally said.

Madi’s rehab program was intense. She had physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy every weekday.

Young girl in a wheelchair and during rehabilitation in a pool.

Madi Fox had to learn how to walk, talk and eat again after being hit by a car.

“The rehab team still say Madi didn’t complain even when she didn’t want to go to rehab,” Sally said.

“She didn’t give up and was determined not to stay in a wheelchair. She’s my little fighter.

“If we hadn’t had the support, we had at the WCH Madi wouldn’t be where she is today. The support and reassurance from the doctors and nurses got us through the trying time.”

While Madi was in the Hospital, Sally and Madi’s brother Tyson lived at Adelaide’s Ronald McDonald House.

“I would spend 10 hours a day at the Hospital and Tyson was at Hospital School. Each night we would leave Madi, we could hear her crying,” Sally said.

“When you are away from your own home for so long you realise how being in your own surrounds is so comforting and how much you miss it. I missed my own bed, our pets, having a backyard, fresh air, and the normality of life at home.”

The day Madi was able to go home, is her most fond memory.

“We had a going away party with the nurses and rehab staff who had looked after me,” Madi said.

Four years on, Madi is a keen basketballer and loves to practice shooting goals in the backyard. She is back at school, has tutoring every week to continue to help with improving her speech and still sees a physiotherapist.

“In the Hospital, I wanted to do a lot of stuff by myself and I tried, but it was hard. Getting help from the doctors, nurses and other staff was good. Having Mum with me also made me keep going,” Madi said.

“Now I want to keep improving my running, because I like running fast.” 


The Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation has teamed up with children’s hospitals across Australia on a unified mission – #CuringHomesickness.

Every day there are hundreds of thousands of children in hospitals around the country.

With the support of the community, we are raising vital funds to get kids in hospital home sooner or for those that cannot go home, help make them feel more at home during their treatment.

Read more about Curing Homesickness here.

WCH Foundation Beach House Build Update

The Beach House construction phase is nearly complete, and the landscape transformation has begun!

(March 2019)

The build of the WCH Foundation Beach House has progressed quickly thanks to our Build Partner, Bella Build & Design and to the countless trades and building supply companies who have so generously contributed in-kind materials and labour to keep the project on schedule.

The next stage for the project is the landscaping. Our landscaping partner, Coastal Landscapes & Fencing, based locally in Victor Harbor, are proud to be able to work with our Foundation and the hospital on such an important project.

IMAGE CREDIT: Danny Jenkins Photography

Owner Don Bailey said, “Coastal Landscapes and Fencing are privileged to be involved with the with the WCH Foundation Beach House as it is a very worthwhile endeavour that has far reaching positive affects for the many families that will use it.”

The design for the ‘play-scaping’ of the exterior is an integral part of contributing to the memory making aspect for our families. Our desire is that the Beach House will be a true holiday destination, showcasing the vast and beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula, especially for families who may experience difficulties exploring the region.

“Having a safe, beautiful and thoroughly equipped home and yard for families to come for a holiday and create wonderful memories is precious to those going through the headache of a sick child.” Don said.

With a sensory bike track, dry creek bed and wheelchair accessible cubbyhouse plus multiple play zonesto suit all ages, the design encourages creative and interactive activities to entertain or simply relax as a family. It is so exciting after all this time to see our Beach House taking shape and we can’t wait to welcome our first family.

Piece of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital art history donated

On Tuesday 27 November, a beautiful piece of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s 140 year history was returned to its home at the hospital, thanks to a generous donation from the artist’s family and our Foundation via our Arts in Health Program.

The imagery in the original painting by Dorrit Black, the ‘Legend of Creation’, was used to decorate walls of the outpatients department at the original Adelaide Children’s Hospital in the 1940s, to create a welcoming space for children and their families, and especially for Aboriginal children and families, by bringing images of Aboriginal Australia to the fore. Although Dorrit was not of Aboriginal descent, these murals were an early form of public recognition of Aboriginal people and their culture, seen by hundreds of thousands of patients in their formative years.

Members of the Black family joined staff from the WCH Foundation and WCHN Executive at a morning tea to celebrate.

L-R: Emily Collins (WCHN History Curator), Jane Scotcher (CEO, WCH Foundation), Robert and Tania Black (Dorrit Black’s family members), and Phil Robinson (WCHN Executive Director, Corporate Services)

The Black family has a rich history with the hospital, with several members of the family having worked at either the Adelaide Children’s Hospital or Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Robert Black, Dorrit’s nephew said he was pleased to see Dorrit’s work returned to “its proper place”.

The painting is on display in the WCH Executive office, along with images, which highlight how the artwork was displayed in the original hospital.

Dorrit sketch was recently included in one of our Arts in Health exhibition in our History and Heritage Gallery at the hospital (known as the Yellow Heart Gallery). As part of our look back on both our history and that of the hospital over the past 140 years our new exhibition in this gallery titled ‘Greatest Hits – Great images form the first 100 years of the Women’s and Children’s Health Network’, will showcase photos of how your hospital have evolved throughout its history.

Download the WCHF Forgotten Murals Brochure.

For more information on this and other exhibitions across our five gallery spaces, click here.

Play Therapy Week – Not just child’s play

During October, Children’s Hospitals around Australia celebrate Play Therapy month in recognition of the amazing work Play Therapists do with children every day.

The Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation is proud to provide funding and resources to support this initiative through our Arts in Health program at our own Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) here in Adelaide.

Euan with mum, Luella.

Jill Newman from our Foundation says there is evidence to suggest that Play Therapy can speed up recovery rates and decrease sensitivity to pain.

“Working with a Play Therapist is often one of the few times that children in hospital get to make their own decisions because play time is their time,” Ms Newman said.

On, Tuesday 16 October during Play Therapy Week at the WCH, members of the team gave out goodie bags to patients and visitors with items for distraction and creativity to keep them entertained long after they have left the hospital.

Women’s and Children’s Health Network Chief Executive Officer, Lindsey Gough, says the team’s work is more than just child’s play.

“Play Therapists provide an incredibly important service for our hospital, working to distract and entertain young patients,” Ms Gough said.

“They not only keep our patients occupied and stimulated through long hospital stays, they also make the hospital less scary for those who might be anxious about their visit and help children cope with invasive procedures.

“The therapists work with children of all ages and with a number of different medical conditions, from chronically ill patients, those in palliative care, those with life changing injuries or those who are only with us for a short while.

“I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank their hard work, dedication and creativity that contributes to our proud history of caring for South Australian families.”

Dedicated Play Therapists are assigned to one of eight wards at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, with one therapist situated in the paediatric outpatient department, which can see up to 450 children each day.

Jack with Play Therapists, Kim and Georgie.

Senior Play Therapist, Marisa Salvati, says the WCH is unique in that it is the only hospital to use a ward-based approach, with Play Therapists elsewhere operating on a referral basis.

“Having our therapists dedicated to a ward means they are consistently there for the children, creating a special bond with our patients and their families” Ms Salvati says.

“It’s not unusual to find the children waiting for us when we arrive at work in the morning.”

The benefits programs such as Play Therapy has on the time children spend in hospital is not only great for patients, but also for siblings and waiting parents, providing a distraction from the usual hospital environment and waiting time.

The method each of the hospitals 10 Play Therapists use to entertain and distract a child varies across the wards. For long stay patients, often who are recovering from a traumatic incident, Play Therapist, Linda becomes a fixture in the lives of these children and their families. She is also know for making birthdays and rehabilitation milestones special for the children she cares for while they are in hospital.

Play Therapist, Leeza sees patients who don’t often come to hospital and are there for only a short period of time. She uses familiar activities like sand play and creative projects to help normalise the hospital experience.

And Kim, who looks after surgical patients, often those with serious injuries or burns, uses guided imagery with patients to help them cope with painful procedures.

The contribution made by our donors and supporters is priceless in relation to how many children and families have been impacted by the amazing and personalised treatment the Play Therapy team can provide. Making a difference every day through smiles and laughter.