Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

August 24th 2012
It's time to help Zack

Liz Roesler with Jasmine and Zack Magnetic Islanders are famous for their generosity. We’ve seen that at numerous Biggest Morning Teas when this community raised more dollars than any other in the country for cancer research. Now, the time is approaching to dig in for one of our own. He’s just seven years old but, with scoliosis, a severe curvature of his spine and other serious health problems throughout his short life, Zack Roesler needs help for a range of possible treatments that could give him the sort of chance in life, most of us take for granted.

Visiting Zack’s home in Nelly Bay I find his mum Liz, a self-employed book keeper, busy cooking an early dinner. Zack is ensconced with a noisy game gadget and sister Jasmine has lots to tell mum. Liz isn’t phased - multi-tasking with medical history and technical terms for me, listening to Jasmine and stirring the dinner. Life is constantly on the go it seems for this busy woman.

Zack’s back is “s” shaped and, as he grows, his spine pushes against other organs such as his heart and lungs. It’s painful and leads to many complications.

Zack is also missing part of a chromosome. Liz fires off the technical term, it’s part 22Q11 and it leads to a facial syndrome and intellectual impairment. “Zac thinks differently to other children” says Liz.

I have to ask Liz the obvious question of whether it’s stressful dealing with Zack’s long and ongoing medical crisis. For just a moment a cloud crosses her unflappable and sunny expression. “Yeah, just a bit,” she says. Zac’s been in and out of hospital ever since he was born.”

There are numerous treatments for scoliosis and, if performed when the patient is very young, the condition can, according to Liz, be cured. Zack is now too old for such results and Liz is angry that some doctors in Queensland had adopted a wait and see approach.

Liz’s greatest hope is to avoid or delay surgery which involves the insertion of rods into Zack’s back which need to be replaced every six to eight months as he grows. Already a friend of Liz’s in England has seen this treatment turn into a painful disaster for her daughter whose rod’s have snapped for the third time.

Specialists Liz has consulted disagree on the best treatment for Zack but she is pinning her hopes on on a couple of non-surgical methods before the surgical option may become inevitable. Zack was recently in Sydney for a three hour per day treatment over two weeks where machines were used to vibrate and relax his back while weights and other machines were used to realign the spine. It’s a process that’s not over and Zack has a special contraption to use at home before returning to Sydney in late September when Liz believes she will know more or less if it is working. And if it is then Zack and Liz will be back to Sydney for further two week treatment blocks every three months.

In Melbourne however, another specialist has a method which Liz is also hopeful about. “Zack will be put under anesthetic and stretched into a position where a cast will be fitted to hold him in place for three or four months.”

If these two methods don’t work then surgery may be the only alternative.

While Zack has faced greater physical challenges in his first seven years than most of us face in our first seventy, Liz knows that he has a lot to offer the world. “He’s a great story teller. he’s very imaginative and artistic. He knows a lot about science, marine life and nature. He’s also very sociable and outgoing,” she says.

The options for Zack are clearly not anything one would wish on anybody who wasn’t in great need. The treatments are also expensive with the Sydney treatment coming in at $100 per hour or $300 per day with Medicare covering $259 yearly and falling well short in the costs for the $3000 back braces that would need changing every ten months. “The fundraiser is to pay for the Sydney and Melbourne treatments. I want to try everything else first because otherwise it involves so much more surgery,” says Liz.

The fundraiser for Zack is next Friday August 31 at the Picnic Bay Hotel for which all Islanders are asked to come along for a great night which is being organised by Liz’s friends.

So, if you would like to support Zac and have a fine old time as well then check out the poster below.

You can also visit the special facebook page dedicated to Zack's ongoing plight (Click here)

Story and photo: George Hirst



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Readers comments
Tonia In reply to The ongoing price of Nelly Bay Harbour
It's 14 years since I last visited Maggy. I am shocked by Nelly Bay and saddened. It is insensitive, ugly and juxtaposed to the essence of Maggy. I embrace progress in general, but this is poorly conceived and executed. Shame.
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