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Newcastle woman Neeti Pandya devotes her life to fundraising after the death of her son.

Almost 14 years ago, Newcastle woman Neeti Pandya faced one of the biggest challenges any parent could face: losing a child.

Ms Pandya and her husband’s son Shreenath died in 2003 from a brain abscess, aged 10.

Since then, she has devoted herself to fundraising for Australian charities that help children with a disability in an effort to give back to those who assisted her family during their time of need.

From India to Newcastle

While still living in India, Ms Pandya said Shreenath was born “an absolutely normal child” in 1993.

But soon his health started to deteriorate.

“After six weeks since his birth, he developed a brain abscess, and because of that he had a lot of developmental delays,” she said.

“When he fell sick, we didn’t know what was happening.

“The doctors would say that ‘time will tell’. To be honest, I didn’t understand what it meant.

“He was always a happy child, he never cried, he was a very happy child.

“He couldn’t do a lot of things because of all the problems, but if he was sitting on a chair and you looked at him you couldn’t tell that he had such a big problem in his brain, that he had only about 10 to 15 per cent of [his] brain left.”

Ms Pandya and her husband had an Australian residency visa, and when they told Shreenath’s medical team this in 1994 they suggested they move.

“[The doctor] said he’d definitely be better off there … it is the rehabilitation part for children with a disability that’s what made us come to Australia,” Ms Pandya said.

Challenging period continues

For years, Shreenath received medical care from Newcastle’s John Hunter Children’s Hospital in New South Wales.

“When we started our life here we did not have much money. We started our life from rock-bottom basically,” Ms Pandya said.

“We got good medical support here. We received a lot of help from different charities and government bodies here in Australia.

“All along I felt it would not have been possible without all these charities.

“My family back in India always said that ‘you must give something back to the community’.”

In 2003, Shreenath entered his final days.

Ms Pandya said her son had been experiencing hundreds of seizures.

“It was really heartbreaking to see him go through that,” she said.

“It was a challenging period, but I felt that I could not be there for him for all his life. So I was, in a way, happy for him to go, because he was suffering a lot.

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“It was hard, but I really wanted him to go before me.”

Shreenath’s death sparks passion

Ms Pandya said the care and assistance her son and their family received during his illness spurred her to start fundraising for Australian charities as a way to give back.

She and the Arpan for Charity group have organised large Indian-themed events over the last several years in Newcastle, with another planned for February 2017.

“My brother back in India always said that ‘Australia is your adopted home country, and you must do something for Australia before you do anything for India’,” Ms Pandya said.

“I never thought that I would be doing another [event, after the first], but one of our friends said ‘You can go big on this, and you must repeat it, you should do it more often’.”

To date, she has helped raise more than $26,000 for charities and organisations including Variety, Ronald McDonald House, the Steve Waugh Foundation and the John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

“I am very much Indian at heart still … [but] I take pride in calling myself a proud Aussie-Indian,” Ms Pandya said.

“I feel I have a very satisfying life. Yes, we have gone through a lot of rough periods … [but] this is my life. I want to do more and more fundraising.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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