Foundation's unit in Melbourne - "a lifesaver" for the Gerke family
"I don't know how our family would have managed without the use of the Foundation's apartment. It just wouldn't be possible, and
After three weeks of tests – in her home city Launceston, as well as in Hobart and Melbourne – Summer Gerke was finally diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer in January (2015).
She was only 19 months old and had been through the ordeal of having three bone marrow biopsies before her parents, Hayley and David Gerke, were told Summer had undifferentiated leukaemia.
“Only an estimated 20 cases of her condition are documented in the world and there is no standard treatment plan,” Hayley explained.
“It was neither ALL(acute lymphoblastic leukaemia) nor AML(acute myeloid leukaemia) but Summer had leukaemic cells in her bone marrow so the decision was made to give her AML therapy because it is more intense.
“After she had a good response to her first round of treatment, it was decided her greatest chance of a cure was to have a bone marrow transplant.”
Summer had to go to Melbourne for this life-saving procedure, which she had on 19 June.
When Summer and her parents arrived in Melbourne, all the Leukaemia Foundation’s accommodation was occupied, so they stayed in a commercial apartment near Summer’s hospital. The Foundation met this cost.
Later, the Gerke’s moved into one of the Foundation’s own apartments at North Melbourne where they expect to stay until the end of September when Summer can go home. She must remain in Melbourne until 100 days after her transplant.
“We didn’t even know these things existed before,” said Hayley about the Foundation’s provision of accommodation at no cost to the family.
“It’s just a couple of blocks – a 10-minute walk – from the hospital and the fact that it is so close is a lifesaver,” said Hayley, describing the location of the apartment.
“It’s so good that it’s so close. I can just walk up the street to see Summer and when she leaves hospital she’ll come home here to the unit for two months.”
Being so close is beneficial from a safety viewpoint too, Hayley said.
“Sometimes, during the 100 days, they have to go back into hospital and being here means we don’t have to traipse across town.
“We don’t have a car here and we don’t know our way around.
“And there are two big bedrooms, so when the other kids are here we can all stay here together.”
Since January, Hayley has only been home twice, for four days each time.
Apart from the first month, while Summer was being diagnosed, and during her transplant, David, a self-employed builder, has continued working in Launceston, coming and going to Melbourne.
Hayley and David decided Summer’s older brother and sister, Izayah, nine, and Bella, seven, would stay in Launceston with Hayley’s parents. They occasionally going to Melbourne for the weekend to visit their mum and sister.
And when Hayley’s mum, Alice Austen, isn’t in Melbourne with Hayley, she’s home in Launceston with the kids.
“David and I thought it was better for them to stay in Tasmania as they are both busy with school and friends,” said Hayley.
“I don’t know how our family would have managed without the use of the Foundation’s apartment. It just wouldn’t be possible, and it all just gets arranged for you.
“Just being able to have your own space and your own environment means when the kids are here, we can pretend it’s home, and they can leave their things here between visits.
“And everyone’s quite happy to just stick around and stay in the unit together, rather than having to go out and be entertained.”