Winkless family has double the fun at the Beach House

On Charlotte Winkless’ first visit to our Laklinyeri Beach House, she was freshly discharged from a 118-day Hospital stint. The second time around though, she couldn’t have had more fun being up and about exploring the Victor Harbor area!

3-year-old Charlotte was born premature but grew into a happy and healthy baby with no complications, until just after her first birthday.

Her parents, Daniel and Simone, recall, “At around 13 months old she developed a cold and we noticed that she was having to work a little bit with her breathing.”

Charlotte was admitted to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s (WCH) Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and her health continued to deteriorate quickly. Her lungs weren’t functioning properly and she developed pneumococcus, a bacterial infection, and also suffered a cardiac arrest whilst being placed on a ventilator. Charlotte developed multiple leaks in her lungs, requiring chest drains and was flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne for specialist ECMO (life support) treatment.

After dropping everything to head to Melbourne, and a few days into their stay, Simone and Daniel received a call no parents want to hear.

“I was in the shower and Simone came in with the surgeon on the phone saying, ‘We need verbal consent to take her into surgery now or she’s going to die,’” Daniel said.

Charlotte had surgery earlier that day to try and ease pressure on her failing lungs but had excessive internal bleeding which needed to be resolved. Unfortunately, she had also developed a blood clot as a result of being on ECMO at the same time, which had broken off the circuit and caused a large stroke.

Thankfully, the surgery was successful, and Charlotte has recovered amazingly, but the impact of having a stroke at such a young age has left her with right side hemiplegia (paralysis) and a cerebral palsy diagnosis, creating life-long effects on her health.

Then vs now: Charlotte looking back at her time in Hospital.

Then vs now: Charlotte looking back at her time in Hospital.

Charlotte’s first visit to the Beach House

Two months after Charlotte came home from hospital, in January 2020, the Winkless family came to stay at our Laklinyeri Beach House after being referred by the WCH’s Complex Care Team.

Individual and corporate donations made to the WCH Foundation fund stays at the Beach House for families with children who have complex needs or are in palliative care, as well as bereaved families.

“It was nice just to finally all be together to enjoy each other’s company and relax,” Simone said.

“We could take our mind off of everything that had happened.”

Charlotte’s brother Sam’s drawing of the Beach House from 2020.

Charlotte’s brother Sam’s drawing of the Beach House from 2020.

Sam and Charlotte’s drawing of the Beach House from 2021.

Sam and Charlotte’s drawing of the Beach House from 2021.

Back to the Beach House

Charlotte is still under the care of multiple teams at the WCH and has been working hard on her rehab, going to appointments most days of the week to see occupational therapists, speech pathologists and physiotherapists, as well as other specialists.

She is now up walking, talking (cubby houses are her favourite topic of conversation) and playing!

The Winkless family were invited back to the Beach House in July 2021, and although it was a familiar destination, it was a completely different getaway this time around with Charlotte’s newfound abilities.

“It was so much more special this time,” Simone said.

“Charlotte actually got to enjoy herself.

“She got to go in the cubby house and play and it was her favourite place. She’d still be there now if we’d let her!”

“It was more enjoyable for us as well,” Daniel added.

“It was sort of like a weight off to be able to sit back and enjoy it.”

Hanging out in Charlotte’s favourite place!

Hanging out in Charlotte’s favourite place!

Making memories

The family filled their trip to the brim and used all the activity vouchers on offer to families who stay at the Beach House, including a ride on the Cockle Train, visit to the wildlife park, photography session, massages, and a trip to the cinema!

“I think it’s all the little moments that add up to make a beautiful memory,” Simone said.

“Like Charlotte learning how to walk over the bridge in the garden to the cubby and put her little head out and play shops.

“For other families, it’s something so simple, but it’s a big deal for Charlotte.”

“It might seem like little things to most people, but to be able to take time away from rehab and appointments and specialists to just enjoy time with family and friends is so amazing,” Daniel added.

“We’ve been unlucky with what’s happened to Charlotte, but it’s been so nice to see all these wonderful organisations thinking of us and making things that little bit easier.”

Sam and Charlotte making memories at the Beach House.

Sam and Charlotte making memories at the Beach House.

Our community’s support

We would like to thank Bendigo Bank who has recently partnered with the WCH Foundation to help fund stays at the Beach House for families like the Winkless family.

The wonderful team at Bendigo Bank have generously sponsored four families to stay at the Beach House this year, gifting them the opportunity to rest, recuperate and spend quality time together.

“We would just like to thank everyone who supports the Beach House because it makes such a difference to families who’ve gone through a hard time,” Simone said.

“We can’t thank you all enough.”


If you, too, would like to help support family stays at our Laklinyeri Beach House, click here

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