IT’S a home away from home for hundreds of families across the North West, and the Palmer family from Narrabri knows the value of the Tamworth Ronald McDonald House more than most.
Sara Palmer and her daughters, Marlee, Jerrah, Trinity and Davinda, were the 1000th family to stay at Ronald McDonald House last weekend.
The five-bedroom house has been used by the families of 223 patients in the past five years.
The Palmers have been regular visitors at Ronald McDonald houses in Tamworth, Sydney and Newcastle since Davinda, 4, was born.
She suffers from a chromosome nine deletion and has already undergone two major heart surgeries.
Davinda is one of very few people diagnosed with the condition in the world.
“She spent her first three months in hospital in Newcastle, then at Westmead,” Ms Palmer said.
“If Davinda gets sick, Tamworth is the closest hospital to Narrabri, so we used to be there every three months after she was born. It’s been five months since our last visit.”
Davinda’s condition causes her to have very low immunity to viruses and infections, including the common cold.
“As soon as she picks up she can have a bad reaction and goes downhill very quickly,” Ms Palmer said.
Davinda, who is non-verbal, can only walk with the assistance of a walker, but the family hopes she’ll gain independence through Lucy, an assistance dog.
Lucy, a great dane cross, adds to the long list of carers for Davinda.
“She’s very lucky to have three older sisters who love her to bits. We all adore her,” Ms Palmer said.
“We’re hoping in the future Davinda will be able to hold onto a harness and walk with Lucy.
“It will help to give her a bit of independence without me and her sisters.”
Ms Palmer said staff and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House had made their stays as easy as possible.
“The care, love and support that is shown to our family and myself by perfect strangers is unbelievable.”
House manager Chris Watson said he had seen demand for the house increase in the past three months.
“We’ve been running at 95 per cent occupancy and that shows how vital the house is for the community and region,” Mr Watson said.