The world is a beautiful place. It’s a bold statement, but one backed by countless examples. In this case, we’ll use an appropriate example, the face of a newborn baby. Yet, as beautiful as the world may be, it can also, at times, prove to be just as cruel as it is lovely.
Fate had delivered a cruel stroke of luck to Renee and Brandt. Their baby was ill and wasn’t getting better…
Renee and her husband Brandt were overjoyed. After several years of trying, they had been blessed with another child. They already had a son, whom they loved dearly, but of course Renee always wanted a little girl. Their newborn daughter, bright-eyed and chubby-cheeked little Linke, was everything they could have asked for and more.
When Linke was a little over a year old, she came down with a rather severe case of pneumonia. Despite antibiotics, nothing seemed to be lowering her fever, nor clearing her lungs. Four cycles of the antibiotics later, and the new parents were at their wits’ end. It was time to drive to the hospital for help. It was a four hour drive…
Renee had driven the four hours to their “local” hospital in rural South Africa. Linke was taken in and treated for her pneumonia. Unfortunately, when the doctor came back out, it was with the worst news imaginable. Little Linke didn’t just have pneumonia, she had Leukemia. She was only fourteen months old.
Months to Live
Linke’s parents now had to face the reality of the situation. Their daughter might not even make it to her second birthday. They were introduced to an oncologist who began treatment immediately. They tried everything they could, treatment after treatment, to little avail. Six months later and they were no closer to curing her…
Six months of treatment in South Africa, and the doctors came to the Nel family to tell them that they’d run out of options for their daughter. Even though he had looked in a medical journal for any new or innovative treatments, nothing was available. According to the oncologist, 98 percent of her blood cells were cancer cells.
“Your perception of what cancer is…it’s not something that children deal with at that time, that’s not the perception…It changes your world…” explained Renee. She and Brandt were terrified about what would come next. They needed a second opinion, but a hospital full of doctors had all seemingly said the same thing: Linke was going to die…
Still, the Nels were like any other parents. They were not going to accept the diagnosis, they couldn’t. Instead, Renee was ready to fight with everything they had and some things they didn’t even know they had in order to find a treatment for their baby girl.
They decided that if the doctors in South Africa were incapable of helping Linke, then they would find someone, somewhere who was. Renee took to Google and searched into the wee hours of the morning. Deep down, she knew there had to be someone out there that could help her baby. She just had to find them…
Over the course of the next few days, Renee Nel emailed 130 doctors around the world. She then waited patiently for the response. 24-hours later and only one person responded to her request. That reply came from Dr Luciano Dalla-Pozza who worked at Westmead Hospital, in Sydney, Australia.
He Can Help
“Dr Luce, as he would become to the Nels, asked them to send all their medical files right away. Renee did so and a day later he came back with a simple “I can help her” reply. It was all they needed to know. As soon as they could, Renee, Linke, and their other son, were on a plane headed down under…
Sold it All
The Nels would arrive in Australia eight weeks later, after having sold pretty much everything they had. They knew they would have to in order to facilitate the family’s move to a continent half-a-world away, and of course afford what would be a revolutionary and undoubtedly expensive treatment.
Give Her a Chance
The Nels had gone to a new continent, which would be difficult for anyone, let alone a family dealing with what they were dealing with. “It definitely wasn’t easy,” explained Renee Nel. “But when you are not given a choice, when that’s the only option you have to give your child a chance…we just had to do it…”
The Big Move
And so with no other options, Renee and Brandt Nel moved their family of four from a rural farm in South Africa to Australia. Despite all the pitfalls that come from moving to another country, the red tape, changes in culture, any parent would have done the same if it meant saving their daughter’s life.
“It’s hard as a family, and you know a lot of things run through your head, but it becomes your one and only primary focus, and you know, you just try and help her as much as you can.” said Renee. Barely a day after they arrived, Linke was taken to Westmead Hospital to meet the man who would save her…
Support and Aid
The family wasn’t alone in all this however. The Cancer Medical Research Institute, which is behind popular charity drive Jeans for Genes Day, helped out immensely with the move. They provided her family with support for the move.
Dr Luciano Dalla-Pozza assessed Linke’s condition immediately. She was cleared to enter a clinical trial the next day and by the end of the first month of treatment, Dr. Luce had seen major improvements. Miraculous though it may seem, Linke Nel’s Leukemia was fully in remission: less than 30 days after arriving…
Four Years Longer
Today, four years after she was told that her daughter would never make her second birthday, Renee Nel is celebrating with her little girl. Six-year-old Linke has seen a number of holidays, birthdays, and Christmases come and go, defying expectations with each passing day.
“We are thankful to have her and be able to reach different milestones that we’d been told we wouldn’t have. To see her go out and make friends and special bonds which she was robbed of when she was a little girl.” says Renee, who now lives in Western Sydney with the rest of her family…
The Nels added that they wouldn’t have been able to make the move Down Under, or save Linke, without the support of their friends and family: and of course Children’s Medical Research Institute. Of course that’s not even counting how their contributions have helped medical research as well.
The Power of Hope
Throughout their ordeal, Renee leaned heavily on the power of hope, but she recognizes that it was science and research that truly gave her daughter a second chance at life: a fair chance to be exact. Today, the Nels, Linke included, continue to support the people that supported them.
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