Staff from WA’s bone and tissue bank, PlusLife, have donated a new bicycle to a young Hamersley girl stricken by cancer as an infant after constructing the bike as part of a team-building development day.
The Midland-based team, which manages life-changing bone and tissue donations, built the bike as part of a series of group challenges before a surprise presentation to Alice Ralph, 3, who has battled high-risk neuroblastoma since she was a baby.
Neuroblastoma, is the most common solid tumour of childhood, occurring almost exclusively in children from infants to the age of five. About 40 children a year are diagnosed with neuroblastoma in Australia.
Alice’s father, Stephen, said his family was delivered his daughter’s heartbreaking diagnosis of a stage four high-risk neuroblastoma when she was just seven months old.
“Alice had a very intensive treatment regime involving chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell collection, mega therapy and stem cell recovery – all before she turned one,” he said.
“She had her last high dose of chemotherapy on her first birthday.
“Fortunately, her treatment worked and she is currently showing no evidence of disease.
“We are now relishing in the opportunity to celebrate Alice’s 4th birthday on November 13 and plan to have a big party to celebrate a birthday that at times we didn’t think we would see.”
Mr Ralph said Alice had a zest for life and lived every day to the fullest.
“Alice brings joy and happiness to everyone she meets,” he said.
“She loves everything dancing and is an avid tap dancer. She loves to be active and is really loving the bike that she was gifted from PlusLife after everything she has been through.”
Four other bicycles constructed during the PlusLife staff development day have also been donated to cancer patients undergoing treatment at Perth Children’s Hospital in Nedlands.
Since opening as the Perth Bone and Tissue Bank 26 years ago, PlusLife has provided more than 19,000 grafts to over 10,000 patients, many of whom are children with bone cancer and spinal deformities.
PlusLife managing director Anne Cowie said the organisation had become closely aligned with parents of young cancer patients who had received life-changing tissue donations, and they had put forward names of worthy recipients for the bikes.
“We are thrilled to be able to provide some joy to Alice through this bike donation and hope she get hours of enjoyment from it after all she has been through,” Mrs Cowie said.
“As well as helping to build better workplace relationships, problem-solving and productivity in our workplace, this team-building exercise has been a reminder for us about why we do the work we do.”
PlusLife, which manages bone and tissue donations in WA, has two donor programs. Living patients having hip replacement surgery can donate the ball part of their hip, which is used commonly in a ground-up form for children with spinal deformities. And, like organ donation, bone, tendons and ligaments can be donated after death with consent from next-of-kin.
Grafts are used for patients undergoing life-changing operations, such as complex joint surgery and treatments for patients with dental and facial bone loss. In many cases it has saved children with cancer the distress of a limb amputation.
“PlusLife has helped improve thousands of lives through generous donations of Australian tissue. This small gesture is just an extension of that giving,” she said.