Little Harry Henderson is just like any other kid: he’s bubbly, loves having fun and chasing the family dog, and determinedly trails after his two older brothers.
But unlike many other children, Harry has spent most of his three years of life in and out of hospitals, particularly the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
This year to say thanks, the Henderson family — parents Ben and Dani and Harry’s brothers Josh, 8, and Dylan, 7, — are hoping to give something back to those who’ve worked so hard to help Harry, and are fundraising for the annual Good Friday Appeal for the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Born in January 2014 at Yarrawonga, Harry entered the world following a relatively fine pregnancy for mum Dani.
There were a few complications, including when Harry stopped breathing, but it wasn’t until four weeks later that they began to notice things weren’t quite right and he began to drop down the growth chart.
A doctor assured them that Harry was ‘‘just a small kid’’.
But when Harry was six months old and still not any better, they sought another opinion.
‘‘Our new doctor pretty much said to rush him to the Royal Children’s Hospital. They said he had severe anaemia and if we had waited any longer to bring him, he could have suffered brain damage,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
He was admitted to the RCH and had ‘‘pretty much every test under the sun’’.
‘‘He’s never really had a solid nappy and been quite mucousy, he vomits daily and he can’t eat any food, he gags and throws it back up,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
He had a nasogastric tube inserted and very slowly started putting on weight, and then was moved to a slow drip feed every 17 hours.
Soon after, Harry began to go backwards again and lost interest in food, with more hospital admissions revealing abnormalities in his digestive process.
‘‘He went to have an operation, but it was unsuccessful because he was so small, his stomach was squished up in his ribs and his large bowel was blocking access for the surgeons,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
A second operation to insert the gastrostomy tube was successful, but the older Harry gets, the more abnormalities are discovered.
He has an irregular heartbeat, high levels of oestrogen in his blood, speech delay and abnormal liver function, to name a few.
“He’s had MRIs on his brain, which showed an abnormality in his pituitary gland, which controls the growth hormones; and everything goes through his bowels really fast,’’ she said.
Harry still needs another operation to fully explore about 2m of his digestive tract, but it’s something that will have to wait until he’s a bit older, with surgeons expecting it could take place when he’s about five years old.
He’s currently in the care of a suite of specialists at the RCH, including an endocrinologist, gastrologist, nutritionist, speech therapist, immunologist and allergy specialist.
‘‘He has lots of appointments at the hospital and has lots of blood tests, at least one a month,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
‘‘One time he had five a month and he now pretty much hates needles.
‘‘He’s been pretty traumatised by all the testing.’’
Despite the multitude of tests, Harry’s condition is still baffling medical experts.
‘‘He’s been diagnosed with an unknown chronic illness, and they’ve told us it could take five, 15 or even 30 years to figure out exactly what it is,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
Their time spent with Harry at the RCH under the watchful care of the staff has prompted the Henderson family to do what it can to give back to the hospital that refuses to give up on their son.
‘‘They quickly become your family when you’re there, and we know a lot of the families,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
‘‘Especially the facilities they have is amazing, and we want to help provide the money to purchase the best equipment for the RCH and cater for future sick children.
‘‘The Starlight room has been a saviour and Harry loves the fish tank. His favourite fish is named Barry.’’
The Hendersons’ fundraising goal was a modest $1000 when they set out, but an overwhelming response from the community prompted them to reset it to $10000.
So far, they’ve raised more than $6000.
‘‘The community has been really generous,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
‘‘First our goal was $1000, and then we hit that, so we revised it to $2000, and then $3000, $4000 and $5000.
‘‘We are so grateful for what the community has done — the Cobram district, as well as Yarrawonga and Shepparton — it’s really amazing.’’
Older brother Josh has also taken the fundraising into his own hands, holding a crazy sock day at his school, Cobram Anglican Grammar, raising more than $1900.
‘‘The school and Mary Swoffer have been absolutely wonderful, Josh organised the whole sock day with help from Mary, and they’ve held a Hope Wish Pray Day as well.
‘‘Their support has been amazing, even with emotional support and offering to help when we’ve had to take Harry down to Melbourne.
‘‘All the kids know Harry as well, and they’ve all been really supportive of us.’’
With two businesses and two young children at school, Mr and Mrs Henderson said Harry’s journey was something they couldn’t have done without the support of family, friends and the community.
Walking the talk
To highlight the amazing work of the team at the RCH, Mr and Mrs Henderson have planned a fairly gruelling task for Good Friday.
Along with a few family members, friends and supporters, they’ll be trekking from Yarrawonga to Cobram, a walk of about 37km.
The destination of their walk is Federation Park, where the Family Fun Day will be in full swing.
‘‘We’re leaving at 4.30 in the morning, so we’re hoping to get there by about lunchtime,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
‘‘We’ve been doing a lot of training, nothing that length at once though, and we think it will take us about 7.5 to eight hours.’’
While the family’s youngest members won’t be completing the walk, they will be joining in with the walk’s last steps to the finish.
Family fun day
The Henderson family is encouraging people to come down to Federation Park on Good Friday to help celebrate the amazing work of the surgeons, doctors and staff at the Royal Children’s Hospital and help them give something back.
Running from noon, the community have got together to help out with the day, with many Goulburn Valley businesses donating goods and services to ensure as much money goes back to the RCH as possible.
There will be a jumping castle, Skillzone’s inflatable soccer pitch, a dunk tank, Cobram-Barooga Photobooth’s photobooth, DJ Haze from Albury, sumo suits donated by Elite Party Hire in Shepparton and Funky Faces face painting.
There will also be raffles and an Easter egg hunt.
‘‘Since it’s Good Friday, we’ll be having a fish finger sizzle and a sausage sizzle, which the Lions club are helping out with, as well as prawn skewers and other food like fairy floss, sweets and lollies,’’ Mrs Henderson said.
‘‘Woolworths have been fantastic, they’ve come on board as the major sponsor and have donated most of the food.’’
●You can get involved by donating online at: https://2017goodfridayappeal.everydayhero.com/au/helpharrygiveback or by visiting the Good Friday Family Fun Day at Federation Park, from noon to 5pm.