Founder of Friendly Faces, Helping Hands, Kelly Foran, Maules Creek, was a guest speaker at the 2013 CWA State Conference in Moree. Kelly ForanELEVEN years ago, Maules Creek woman Kelly Foran was excitedly anticipating her firstborn baby when she began to experience headaches, nose bleeds and hearing congestion.
Although initially assured it was pregnancy-related, her symptoms worsened over the weeks and Kelly was taken to Dubbo Hospital for a check-up.
An MRI scan revealed a brain tumour the size of a goose egg.
She was immediately sent to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney for what she thought would be an emergency caesarean and the removal of the tumour.
Upon her arrival, doctors informed Kelly that she would need to undergo steroid treatment to first shrink the tumour before it could be removed.
Two weeks later, Kelly gave birth via caesarean to a baby boy named Jake at 36 weeks’ gestation.
Sadly, Jake was also afflicted with health problems. He was born with a hole in his lung, hyper-insulin anaemia, jaundice and could not drink unaided.
Kelly said Jake required medication from the United States to treat the condition.
Things became further complicated when Kelly was told the steroid treatment had not shrunk her tumour. But due to her critically high blood sugar levels, her surgery to remove the tumour could not commence.
“The tumour didn’t shrink and neither did I,” she said.
“I went from weighing 67 kilograms after Jake’s birth to 89 kilograms in two weeks.”
Kelly endured a gruelling 16-hour surgery and awoke with a slight stroke on her left side and excruciating pain in her breast rather than her head, due to the fact that she was still breastfeeding.
Kelly spent a month recuperating in intensive care and the neurology ward, but her health challenges were not over yet.
Another stroke, a meningitis diagnosis, muscle dystrophy and learning to walk again followed. Further, when Jake was one year old, a cancerous tumour was found in his right eye.
Doctors had no choice but to remove the eye.
“We now had to look forward to three-month hospital visits and day surgeries as well as the challenge of what if it’s back,” she said.
“We also had to deal mentally with our beautiful baby having only one eye and our guilt for allowing this to happen.”
It was Kelly’s extensive experience in hospitals that prompted her to establish an online support network for patients and families struggling with day-to-day living during long-term health issues.
Friendly Faces Helping Hands provides information on accommodation, parking, cheap eats, supermarkets and even hairdressers that are located near each metropolitan hospital. Links are also available for support networks, social workers and counsellors.
This year marks the fourth anniversary of the service, with TV personality Scott Cam recently coming on board as an ambassador.
Since establishing the service, Kelly and her team of volunteers have helped more than 45,000 regional Australians.
She recently supplied Hunter New England Health with 5000 kits to be distributed to patients and families at John Hunter Hospital and other hospitals in the region to help them access services.
“This site has been designed from the heart,” she said.
“Many occasions we struggled to get food, supermarket goods, nappies, milk and parking. We had been going to Brisbane for two years and paying $17 a day for parking when we found a cheaper parking spot around the corner for $4.
“This website helps to minimise the overwhelming feelings of isolation and give people the power of information in these difficult times.”
For more information, visit friendlyfaces.info.