How a stomach bug turned into a fatal illness for little Rio

It’s difficult to think of anything much worse for a parent, than to be told your child has a terminal illness.

But there’s a very special sanctuary, for Sydney parents and families going through the ordeal which provides a caring, friendly place for precious time.

Bear Cottage in Manly is one of only three facilities of its kind in the country, but needs the community’s help to continue.

Rio Foster passed away after battling a rare underlying condition discovered when he went to hospital for gastro. Source: Supplied

Ryan and Karen Fowler know how important Bear Cottage is. It is the place where they said goodbye to their 16-month-old baby boy in January.

Late last year little Rio went to hopsital with a stomach bug but he never came home.

“His heart beat was around 220 beats and the doctor said to us we are struggling to see that he would make it through the night,” Mr Fowler recalled.

His parents found comfort from Bear Cottage in Manly where Rio spent his final weeks alive. Source: Supplied

Things got worse for Rio and he underwent five surgeries.

Then the Fowlers were told their little boy had a rare underlying condition and he wouldn’t survive.

That’s when they turned to Bear Cottage.

Rio’s legacy lives on as his family look to raise funds for Bear Cottage and Randwick Hospital. Rio is pictured here with his big sister Remy. Source: Supplied

“I think Bear Cottage gave us our family back. When you’re in hospital you’re a patient in a bed number,” Ms Fowler said.

The facility is one of three places in the country to provide a place for terminally ill children and their families.

“I walked him straight down to the beach and sat with him for half an hour or so and he just relaxed in my arms,” she said.

“I thought this is what my little boy wants, he doesn’t want to be stuck in a metal cot. So that is priceless absolutely, I could give him that because of this place.”

The centre relies heavily on 150 volunteers and donations from the public. Source: 7News

Bear Cottage has 150 volunteers, music and play therapy, a chef for every family meal and even Frankie the dog.

“We are not a dark place children don’t come here to die at bear cottage they come here to live and that might not be for a long time but to pack as much as they can into those last days,” Bear Cottage’s Nursing Unit Manager, Narelle Martin, said.

It costs $3.5 milliona year to run – over a third of that comes from the community.

Frankie the dog offers some relief to the children at Bear Cottage. Source: 7News

We just want to make sure that there’s enough room for everyone to be looked after through that . knowing that it could be your childs last breath,  last day of life….that’s a horrendous thing,” Ms Fowler.

The Fowlers have set up a charity named Rio’s Legacy and have set themselves a target to raise one million dollars.

Mr Fowler is now running for Rio, 1000 kilometres from Melbourne to Sydney,  to honor his little boy and to raise money for Bear Cottage.

“The idea behind that is to really raise awareness and talk about a subject that at the end of the day really know one wants to talk about,” he said.