When Charlie was diagnosed with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, a congenital disability of the diaphragm, at his 20-week morphology scan, parents Jessica and Darren didn't know what to expect.
Jessica, who lives in Cairns, was told she would need to deliver Charlie in Townsville for him to receive the best possible chance of surviving his condition, which has a 40-50 per cent mortality rate.
"We delivered Charlie in Townsville where he was taken straight up to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and their amazing team," said Jessica.
"Unfortunately, it was clear after five days that he needed much more support."
Charlie and Jessica were soon on a Life Flight to Brisbane. He was put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – a form of life support – and underwent surgery to repair his diaphragm.
"He went through a lot of complications and was under paralysis and heavy sedation for a month.
"We then made the very slow process of trying to wean oxygen and medications."
At eight weeks old, Charlie's parents were finally able to hold him. Soon after, his siblings Tahlia, Darcy and Riley were given the go-ahead to make the trip from Cairns to Brisbane.
During their time in Brisbane, the entire family stayed at Ronald McDonald House South Brisbane.
"The team at the South Brisbane House organised a room for us which was amazing as we hadn't seen the kids in ten weeks," said Jessica.
"The kids were also able to access the school at the hospital, and we were able to spend time together as a family.
“Best of all, the kids were able to meet their brother for the first time."
As Charlie grew stronger, the family prepared for a transfer from Brisbane to Townsville – and getting one step closer to home in Cairns.
"A room was made available to us at the Townsville Ronald McDonald House, and we stayed there while Charlie was in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Townsville University Hospital," said Jessica.
"What an amazing facility. The playground really helps the kids burn off energy and have fun, the kitchen is amazing for when you can't get out, and let's say Fairy Doyle and her magical letters still get spoken about in our house regularly!
"We were also lucky to have the (Family Room on the Go) cart come around while we were on the ward at Townsville as I was on my own and couldn't even leave the room.
"We cannot thank the Charity enough. You allowed us to be together as a family and stay close to Charlie at the worst time we have ever been through, whilst still allowing our kids to have some normalcy and fun," said Jessica.
Charlie ended up spending a total of 104 nights in hospitals in Townsville and Brisbane.
"If it weren't for amazing services like Ronald McDonald House Charities, my mental health and the health of my family wouldn't have come through this so well," said Jessica.
"We also would have missed some very special moments if it weren't for Ronald McDonald House. Our daughter learnt to ride a bike with no training wheels in Townsville, and that's where our son lost his first tooth and learnt to use the monkey bars.
"Charlie came home with a nasogastric tube and oxygen, which we have since got rid of.
"He still sees the developmental team and several specialists in Cairns, but we are blessed every day to all be together."