One morning in 2017, Tommy woke up very pale in colour and with notable bruising. After a visit to the doctor, he was flown to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle that afternoon and diagnosed with Leukemia.
This was the beginning of a long treatment journey. After an initial 2 week stay at the hospital, Tommy, his two younger siblings and Mum stayed at the nearby not for profit accommodation facility Ronald MacDonald House. Needing to maintain a family income, Tommy’s Dad stayed in Glen Innes during the week to continue working. Sam, was unable to return to work. Every Friday night, Lincoln would make the 430km, 5-and-a-half-hour journey to Newcastle to be with his family over the weekend.
But the story did not end there, after Tommy returned home, he developed a lung infection, and he was flown by emergency back to Newcastle. Tommy spent a further 1 month in hospital (half od which was in ICU).
Sam recalls the first time she attempted to claim IPTAAS assistance; “I sat down for an entire day, working my way through the forms….it was so cumbersome”. Since neither Sam or Lincoln travelled with Tommy – almost all trips were ineligible to claim for travel. The social workers at the hospital assisted her with the forms for the accommodation subsidy which was directly paid to the accommodation provider. “I couldn’t put a number on what we spent…. then there was the time off work and all the extra travel, we could not have got through it with out the help of charities like Can Assist who provided us with multiple travel vouchers and the not-for-profit accommodation provider Ronald McDonald House”
The Gills travelled well in excess of 50,000 km over the course of Tommy’s treatment; around 150 trips in total. Almost all trips were ineligible for IPTAAS assistance since most were travelled without the patient.