In a small country town in Far North Queensland, Parents with worried looks visit yet another Doctor with their sick child. Johnny who is twelve years old is listless, pale and feverish. “Could be the flu” was a fair diagnosis its winter and the flu is about.
Time goes by and the next Doctor says a virus was probable; he needs plenty of fluids, and rest and Panadol, which should do the trick.
The parents traveled far to the city to see another Doctor who ordered blood tests. Everyone was so apprehensive a needle would hurt and Johnny would cry he would be upset.
Finally the blood test is done, with a new toy for Johnny,
“ It’s all better now you will see!”
The phone rings at dinnertime late in the evening.
The parents are shocked with the urgency in the Doctors voice,
“What! To-night can’t it wait till the morning?”
“No!” comes a stern reply.
With trepidation the family leaves home in the night to drive to the city hospital far away.
The Emergency Department is busy but Johnny is expected, more blood tests, pocking and prodding.
Parents so worried.
The Doctors advise a type of leukemia, a blood cancer.
“What do you mean type, is there more that one type?”
Doctor “Google” will know we will search and fine out.
“O’ my goodness!” its worse when death is about.
Doctor and nurses flurry about more needles and monitoring, Social Workers council, support and arrange a flight and a place for the family to stay in a big city hospital in Brisbane so far away.
The Parents are dazed and anxious; try to fathom the meaning of what lies ahead and what is left behind in such a rush of arrangements, they go through the steps in a daze, there is work and school, who will feed the dog?
Johnny is stable asleep in a bed a needle in his arm for intravenous fluids that surge through his body rehydrating and cooling, for the long flight ahead.
A journey begins that most can’t imagine, no parents want to go on and no child should have to bear.
The retrieval aircraft arrives for the flight to Brisbane, the doctors explain,
“Sorry there’s only room for one parent the plane is small and there is a lot of equipment.”
The other parent and siblings have to make a mad dash to the airport for a commercial flight instead.
“Will Johnny be with us at the end of the flight?”
They rush through the airport, line up for a taxi,
“Please hurry we have to be there, the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, our Johnny is there.”
The overwhelming relief to find Johnny asleep, comfy in bed, so pale and week, but safe now as treatment has started.
Blood and tissues collected and tested, Flow cytometry, Genetics and genotyping a diagnosis will follow, the computer are whirling, data is collected. Professors, Oncologists, Paediatricians, Nurses and Allied Health gather for a meeting with parents who dread, a heart felt question is first to be asked,
“Will he die?”
The diagnosis is T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukeamia.
The treatment is 4 years long, longer for boys than girls by a year. The Hormones of boys are resistance to chemotherapy, especially at 12 years old; a teenager remains difficult to treat.
With treatment started Johnny is oblivious, to sick to care. He is fighting a battle of toxic chemotherapy assaulting his body with drugs that kill cancer cell but good cells as well.
The parents watch anxiously, encouraging and supporting,
“OMG, where are we now alone in the world?”
Doctors and nurses scurry around, monitoring, administrating drugs and doing even more tests, ever vigilant for signs of distress.
In a building hidden away in the labyrinth of the hospital there are people working through out the night. Dressed in white uniforms the laboratory Technicians have created an avatar mouse, he is white and fluffy and his name is Johnny he now has T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukeamia and on life saving chemotherapy, his treatment is ahead of his human counterpart, forging a pathway of survival for Johnny and his fight.
When thing have improved and Johnny is in remission, a year has passed, the family now confident of a future back on the farm in Far North Queensland.
The Avatar mouse is introduced to all people involved with the struggle to save this boy’s life, the Avatar mouse can show life and survival is possible.
For the laboratory technicians in their white coats have the confidence “of mice and man.”
The 4 years of treatment with many ups and downs is completed and the two Johnny’s are well, together they fought for a future “of mice and man”.