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In need, a home away from home

Date

David Ellery

Jessie Doolan and Joel Campbell from Elora Bay holding a picture of their twins have been staying at Ronald McDonald House Canberra since their twins were born premature.

Jessie Doolan and Joel Campbell from Elora Bay holding a picture of their twins have been staying at Ronald McDonald House Canberra since their twins were born premature. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Joel Campbell and Jessie Doolan spent the official opening of Canberra's Ronald McDonald House tucked away up the back of the crowd of politicians, celebrities, minders, media, charity workers, medicos and sports stars who had turned out for the event.

Their casual clothing, in Joel's case a Lego T-shirt and thongs, was the only clue the long-awaited centre was much more than a new piece of infrastructure for them.

It has been their home away from home since October 26 after the premature arrival of twins, Paisley and Evie, turned their world upside down.

Delivered by an emergency caesarean at the Moruya hospital, the babies came into the world seven weeks and a day earlier than expected on October 24.

Paisley and Evie were flown to Canberra almost immediately after birth with Joel and Jessie following two days later. ''We were worried sick until we got here,'' Joel said.

All that changed when they learned that as two of the first people to use Canberra's Ronald McDonald House they would be staying within a few moments' walk of the twins.

''I was expecting an old house, perhaps out in the suburbs, and that we would have to drive in,'' Jessie said. ''This is all brand new, the people have been fantastic and it is wonderful.''

Joel said a friend who had called by for a visit described the accommodation as akin to being on the set of a Star Trek movie. The twins' novice grandfather, Simon Grealy, who, with his wife, Wendy, has travelled to Canberra from the coast twice so far to be with the family, compared it to a luxury hotel. ''They are really good facilities,'' he said. ''The staff have been great and (because there is a shared kitchen) we have been able to cook family meals and even wash up.''

Wendy Grealy said knowing the house was there was reassuring given it was a 600 km, seven-hour round trip from the coast.

Ronald McDonald House is housed in a special wing of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. It has 11 guest rooms - all with ensuites, the kitchen, lounge and dining rooms, a playroom and laundry facilities.

ACT Chief Minister and Minister for Health Katy Gallagher performed the official opening. ''Up to 4000 nights of accommodation a year will be provided to interstate families when coming to Canberra for hospital care,'' she said.

The Ronald McDonald House brief extends far beyond accommodation. Families using the facilities are offered support on many levels.

Joel and Jessie are pleased with the way Paisley and Evie are progressing and hope to have them back home in Elouera Bay for a family Christmas.

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