AT the age of 17, Haylee Lester can say she has met the Queen and thrashed Hollywood heartthrob Chris Hemsworth at Uno.
(She suspects he let her win.)
Though many of the Bendigo teen’s wishes have come true throughout the years, there is one she has yet to fulfil.
Haylee wants to give back to the countless nurses and doctors who have saved and enriched not only her life, but those of other patients at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
She was just a few hours old when she first underwent surgery, having been born with a defect of the abdominal wall.
Instead of being on the inside of her belly, Haylee’s intestines were on the outside.
Gastroschisis made for a childhood unlike many others. Haylee was frequently in and out of hospital until her early teens, when her condition started to stabilise.
Her longest hospital stay was eight months – a time in which the Royal Children’s Hospital became a second home, and the people working in it were members of her extended family.
“I used to call the nurses my aunties,” Haylee said.
“They’ve thrown me countless birthday parties. They played with me when I was bored.”
Haylee said the nurses would spend their lunch breaks with her and take her to the playground.
“They watched Home and Away with me, because it’s my favourite show ever,” she said.
She once returned from a week in intensive care to find the nurses had taped the show for her, so she didn’t miss a moment.
On nights when she found it difficult to sleep, Haylee could be found chatting at the nurses’ station.
Even when she was at her sickest, she said the hospital staff knew how to make her smile.
“The hospital has done so much,” she said.
The Royal Children’s Hospital treated more than 350,000 children last year.
More than 90,000 children were treated in emergency, and 255,000 children were treated at the hospital’s specialist clinics.
Adulthood looms large for Haylee, and with it a change in hospitals.
But she hopes a fun day at the Marong Family Hotel will give her an opportunity to show the team at the Royal Children’s how much she appreciates them and the work they do.
The public event runs from 11am – 6pm on April 2 and will feature live music, face painting, a jumping castle, lucky ticket prizes and a silent auction.
Entry is $5 per person or $10 per family, and can be paid at the door.
Money raised will go towards the Good Friday Appeal.