By Mitch Guy
A BRAVE young girl’s battle against a rare childhood condition has been made easier thanks to the help of Ronald McDonald House Charities.
When Cowes Primary School student Natasha Howson was diagnosed with Perthes disease as a seven year-old in 2014, her schooling was heavily affected.
Perthes, or Legg-Calve-Perthes, is a rare childhood condition that occurs when blood supply is disrupted to the top of the femur, which causes the bone cells to die.
With time the cells regenerate naturally, and the treatment focuses on facilitating the re-growth of the femoral head into a rounded shape so that it fits snugly into the hip socket to minimise hip problems in adulthood.
Extensive rehabilitation followed the diagnosis, with regular stints in hospital for surgery, and two stints in a wheelchair with broomstick casts, where Natasha’s legs were plastered in place and a horizontal bar was used to keep them spaced apart.
But her natural optimism to remain positive and keep smiling did not waiver, and while recuperating in the Royal Children’s Hospital she spent hours weaving colourful loom band bracelets and decorating the dull broomstick bar in a cheerful rainbow.
Upon her eventual return to school in a wheelchair, Natasha was uncertain how her classmates would react.
Conquering a thudding heart and sweaty palms, she wheeled into her classroom to face the questions.
The young girl was very relieved when the first question asked was ‘Who did the loombands?’ quickly followed by, ‘Which is your favourite?’
The support and acceptance by the students and staff of Cowes Primary School has been immense and has made Natasha’s recovery much easier.
In the second half of 2015 she continued to experience pain in her leg, which saw her regularly miss school.
That’s when the Ronald McDonald Learning Program stepped in.
The national program by Ronald McDonald House Charities assists children with serious illnesses catch up on their learning following lengthy hospital stays and absence from school.
All services are provided free to families and schools, thanks to the funding from generous supporters of Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Natasha was paired up with local tutor Nadine Leed, who provided one-on-one weekly tuition.
In the second half of the 2015 school year, Natasha missed 30 days of classes from being too sore and needing bed rest to ease the pain around her hip.
Her mother, Alice, said as time progressed, the value of the extra tuition became very apparent.
“Nadine assisted Natasha with her maths and schoolwork and went above and beyond her job description to bring gifts, kindness and smiles back to Natasha,” she said.
She gave Natasha not only the skills required to stay at the level with her classmates, but also the confidence to push herself further.
“School reports and NAPLAN results all illustrated that Natasha’s learning had not suffered despite her many absences, and she had even moved a full year ahead of where she needed to be in reading, art and music.”
Now nine years old, Natasha is travelling better and although she still experiences some pain, she’s able to live an active life, playing in the backyard with her sister Hannah and enjoying sports at school.
McDonald House Charities helped her celebrate her achievement party with friends and family at Wonthaggi McDonalds recently, where Drouin McDonalds trainee manager Riley Hermens travelled to Wonthaggi to host the party, and entertained the children with party games, music, prizes, lunch, a celebratory cake and even a surprise gift for Natasha.
Alice said the family was very grateful for the support shown towards her family during its time of need.
“I would like to thank the incredible team that work at the Royal Children’s Hospital, especially Mr Abhay Khot, her consultant surgeon,” she said.
“I’d also like to thank the supportive and compassionate staff at Cowes Primary School who ensured that Natasha’s needs have always been catered for both at school and when needing time off.
“Natasha’s tutor Nadine Leed has been an angel, both with her kindness and wisdom and the locals GPs, physios and masseurs and all of Natasha’s friends and family have come together to help in Natasha’s times of need. And of course, a big thank you to McDonald’s Charities for remembering to celebrate the successes along the way and providing us with the opportunity to stay focused on the future.”