Towards the finale!

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After many delays due to the pandemic, Kyla Joy, 16, was brimming with excitement as she boarded a plane to Sydney in early February to commence her treatment for severe burns at Concord Repatriation General Hospital.

Joined by Retreat Manager Debbie Pickering and Kyla’s carer Jenny Rose, Kyla Joy had barely any time to settle in and enjoy the sights before she was wheeled into surgery for the first of her three planned procedures.

As the day of the operation approached, understandably nerves began to kick in, but in true Kyla Joy fashion, Kyla simply took a deep breath and said, “I can do this!” For this first surgery, Kyla Joy’s surgeons Associate Professor Peter Haertsch and Professor Peter Maitz released the burns contractures under her arms, neck and chest. They also debulked Kyla Joy’s lower lip.

The three-and-a-half-hour operation went well, but it wasn’t all plain sailing, as is often the case with such complex surgeries. Due to the wounds bleeding, Kyla Joy spent six nights in ICU and had further procedures to stop the bleeding.

To make matters worse, poor Kyla’s mouth was taped shut to allow her mouth and lip to heal.

A nasogastric tube provided sustenance, but unfortunately, a good comforting meal was initially out of bounds. It was over three weeks until Kyla could finally relish in the pleasure of “eating” a hearty meal.

Despite all this, Kyla kept her spirits up and found time to think about the other kids at The Retreat. As one of the “bigger sisters” of the group, she regularly checked in on her friends at Kilmore, ensuring they were doing ok.

The next surgery followed on 8 March. This time Kyla’s surgeons focused on skin grafting around her chest. The surgery took two-and-a-half hours. Again, Kyla Joy showed immense courage and resilience as she recovered, with all the nursing staff on the ward commenting on just what a “trooper” she was.

The final surgery, which took over two hours, occurred in early April. This involved more contracture release under Kyla Joy’s arm and opening up of the corners of her mouth.

After a three-month stay in hospital and undergoing numerous complex and painful procedures, it was not surprising that recovery following this final surgery tested Kyla Joy. Thankfully with Jenny Rose by her side and all the support around her, including our Sydney based Board member Jeff Hudson, she pulled through.

With Jenny Rose and Phoebe.

Edging towards the finale of her treatment, Kyla was recently discharged from hospital.

Following some recovery in Sydney, she is now back at The Retreat where more physiotherapy and rehabilitation will follow (no doubt, along with some singing, dancing and performing with her buddies) before she heads back home to the Philippines.

Here are some words from Kyla Joy on her journey so far:

“I feel so happy that I had my surgeries done. I feel a lot better now than before. Through the surgeries, I endured a lot of pain, but I’m really glad to see the result.

I’m doing my best to do my physiotherapy to make the surgeries worth it and for a better outcome for my scars. It can be hard and frustrating sometimes, but the best thing I can do is follow all the instructions given to me by the doctors, nurses and physiotherapists. I cannot thank all those people who have supported me – Jenny Rose, the surgeons, the doctors, the nurses, the physiotherapists, and the Children First Foundation volunteers, staff, donors and supporters.

Thank you so much for making all of this happen for me.”


If you’d like to help more young people like Kyla Joy access surgery and treatment that will transform their lives, please donate today.


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