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.