Peter's son spent many weeks in hospital battling cancer. Picture: Supplied
Peter's son spent many weeks in hospital battling cancer. Picture: Supplied

Photo virus deniers need to see

Today, if you saw our family on the street you probably wouldn't give us a second thought. Wife, husband, four kids, out for a bike ride or at the shops getting groceries. A normal family.

But you won't see our family on the street, or at the shops, or even out for a bike ride. You see, two years ago, our lives were changed by a health crisis. And today, we're more than a week into self-isolation to keep our son safe and "flatten the curve" to protect other vulnerable Australians.

In late 2017, we left our home in Costa Rica and came to Australia for Christmas. It was to be the trip of a lifetime, the first time my Australian family had met my baby daughter and the first time any of my kids had experienced an Aussie Christmas (my wife and I had even planned a surprise visit to Disneyland on the way back home).

By Boxing Day, our dreams of a perfect Christmas holiday were starting to change. Our son made his first trip to the hospital that night and then rapidly deteriorated over the following two weeks. In mid-January, we were sitting in a sterile ICU conference room, surrounded by doctors and nurses, some with tearstained eyes, who told us our son had cancer.

In that instant, our lives changed forever. Everything we thought we knew about that year was turned upside down. Our work life would look different. We needed to work out schooling for our kids. We weren't even sure how long we had somewhere to stay.

Over the next six months our son spent 96 nights in hospital, experienced more than 25 general anaesthetics, had more than 20 scans and received countless blood transfusions. As his immune system was decimated by his treatment, our kids spent weeks away from their regular school because of the life-threatening nature of minor infections.

Peter's son spent many weeks in hospital battling cancer. Picture: Supplied
Peter's son spent many weeks in hospital battling cancer. Picture: Supplied

It's fairly well known that older Australians are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, but there is much less awareness of children, and other younger Australians, who are at risk because they are immunocompromised or face other chronic health issues. A recent study demonstrated that some children can experience severe disease from contracting COVID-19. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that nearly 40 per cent of people hospitalised because of coronavirus were between the ages of 20 and 54.

So when I hear healthy young and middle-age Australians say they're not worried, that they don't want to "live in fear", I feel like screaming, "Don't you care?" And the painful thing is, I know they would. More than 10,000 people around the world viewed updates about my son's journey with cancer. They cared. When they knew it was my boy's life in the balance, they paid attention.

We were overwhelmed by the love people demonstrated during that time of crisis. People brought us meals and groceries, gave us gift certificates and worked hard to stay connected via phone, text, and email.

 

Time spent in hospital was tough for the whole family. Picture: Supplied
Time spent in hospital was tough for the whole family. Picture: Supplied

And that's what I need everyone to know today: My boy's life, the lives of thousands of other immunocompromised kids - and adults - are in the balance if we don't take this virus seriously.

Like those thousands of people who touched our family's life two years ago, every Australian can make a difference today.

You can take the commonsense steps of hand washing, not touching your face and social distancing. You can work from home if you have the option. Instead of "living in fear", you can "live in love" by reaching out to health workers, sending treats to the teachers at your kids school or delivering groceries to your vulnerable neighbours.

You can look for other ways to help, like donating blood, buying gift certificates to local businesses or supporting your favourite charity.

In some ways, our story is a road map for the weeks and months to come for Australians and people around the world. A health crisis made a regular family obsess about hand washing. Social distancing became a way of life.

 

Peter's son is now five and in remission. Picture: Supplied
Peter's son is now five and in remission. Picture: Supplied

Like my family's crisis in 2018, I am convinced this crisis in 2020 is a moment that we will all remember for the rest of our lives. So will our kids.

Our family's journey was a moment of clarity. We realised that some things we obsessed about were completely unimportant (like the latest drama at work). And we saw clearly there were precious things in our lives we easily overlooked (like the gift of time with our kids).

Many people made sacrifices to love our family during our crisis and we will never forget it.

Today, even though our son is in remission and he looks like any other kindergartener, his immune system is still recovering from the intense nature of his treatment.

So, my wife and I are working remotely while juggling homeschooling. Our dining table has become a school desk for four. Alexa is our new school bell. Our small backyard is the playground for recess and lunch.

We are being creative about contact with friends and family. Grandparents are using Facetime and Zoom to read the kids stories. We are having e-coffees with friends and colleagues.

For the many Australians who may see their future in our past and present, let's live in love. Let's take action to make a difference. Let's make the coronavirus pandemic a crisis that clarifies what's really important and makes our families and communities stronger.

Peter Morris' son Ben is the face of this year's Jeans for Genes campaign, which will be advocating for more research into childhood cancers.

Originally published as Photo virus deniers need to see

Peter's son celebrating being in remission. Picture: Supplied
Peter's son celebrating being in remission. Picture: Supplied
In 2018 the Morris family's 'normal' life took a turn for the worse. Picture: Supplied
In 2018 the Morris family's 'normal' life took a turn for the worse. Picture: Supplied

GypsyRumble returns to stage at Agnes Blues and Roots fest

Premium Content GypsyRumble returns to stage at Agnes Blues and Roots fest

After their high-energy, infectious performances and an engaging, inspiring...

AMAZING DEAL: Read it all for $3 a week for first 12 weeks

Premium Content AMAZING DEAL: Read it all for $3 a week for first 12 weeks

You get access to local and regional news and the Courier Mail

Meth, MDMA, $9K cash and tick sheet found on CQ man

Premium Content Meth, MDMA, $9K cash and tick sheet found on CQ man

The 21-year-old held his son for the first time behind bars after he was taken into...