Bargara paramedic faces the other side of medical help
IT'S been a turbulent few weeks for Bargara paramedic Steve 'Sunny' Whitfield and his family and they're strapped in for a long, life-changing ride.
On April 26 Sunny and wife Shelley were given the news their two-year-old daughter Skye had a rare cancer, Langerhans cell histiocytosis.
Doctors, looking for the cause of pain in the little girl's ear, discovered a polyp, which was the tip of a large mass that turned out to be malignant.
In LCH, too many Langerhans cells build up in parts of the body where they can form tumours or damage organs. Skye's affect her skull and neck.
LCH occurs in one in 200,000 children, but any age group can be affected.
The news came after the toddler was already diagnosed with an incredibly rare chromosome duplication, 7p22.1 microduplication detected, of which there is limited information or support networks available.
Skye is one of only 17 people in the world with the condition.
It will be a bumpy few years to come for the family which has moved south to be closer to the only place in Queensland to treat the children's cancer.
Treatment involves extensive hospital stays, surgeries and chemotherapy.
Sunny has taken leave from the Queensland Ambulance Service and now works around the clock with Shelley to care for Skye and their son, Tyler, 4.
His colleagues set up a fundraising page to help support a man they say is always there to help others.
In 2015 Sunny set up The Wild Medic Project which helped take medical teams to communities in developing countries.
Sunny told the NewsMail that it was hard to admit his family was struggling.
"People didn't have to do this (help) and they are,” he said.
"You don't expect them to but they just do, and it's appreciated so much.”
He said his roots would always be in Bundaberg and they're all counting down the days until they can return to some form of normal and back to their home.
"Skye is pretty resilient and we all just have hope,” Mr Whitfield said.
To help the family go to www.youcaring.com and search for "Skye's big battle against a rare cancer”.
What is LCH
Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) is the most common of the histiocytic disorders and occurs when the body accumulates too many immature Langerhans cells, a subset of the larger family of cells known as histiocytes.
Langerhans cells are a type of white blood cell that normally help the body fight infection. In LCH, too many Langerhans cells are produced and build up in certain parts of the body where they can form tumors or damage organs.
The cause of this disease is unknown, although many possibilities have been explored, including viruses, exposure to toxins in the environment, family history and geography.
Most data support the concept that LCH is a diverse disease characterized by a clonal growth of immature Langerhans cells that appear to have mutations of BRAF in about half the cases.
LCH is not caused by a known infection.
It is not contagious, nor is it believed to be inherited.
Scientific discussions on the definition of LCH continue to be debated in terms of its classification as either an immune dysfunction or a rare cancer (neoplastic and malignant or not malignant).
There remain differing opinions among experts as to whether it is definitively a cancer or not.