Brooke beats odds in big health battle

Brooke Pavisich has defied the odds twice, surviving leukaemia as a baby then heart failure which needed a lifesaving transplant.

And while the nine-year-old faced her medical battles, her father Alan was diagnosed with advanced cancer and spent 14 months off work having chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

Today, both are cancer-free and for the first time Brooke is back at school full-time, thanks to a heart transplant in Melbourne last year.

She was diagnosed with leukaemia at 10 months, a rare event requiring chemotherapy not usually given to a child under two.

She was one of the youngest leukaemia patients Princess Margaret Hospital doctors had seen, and though the cure rate was good in children aged over two, Mr Pavisich and his wife Narelle were warned Brooke's chances were only 30 to 40 per cent.

"She had to go on a trial to have aggressive treatment for nearly a year, and two weeks before she finished her treatment I was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma," Mr Pavisich said.

"We were worrying about her finishing treatment and me starting mine, so we had a tough time."

Though chemotherapy cured Brooke's leukaemia, it came at the expense of her heart, which gradually failed. Over the next years, she became increasingly unwell and lethargic and was finally diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.

Brooke was assessed at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital, the only unit in Australia which carries out heart transplants in children, and the family were told she needed a transplant.

Last year, she received her new heart.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the heart transplant service, which has helped 116 children since 1988. Cardiologist Robert Weintraub, who manages the program, said more donor organs would help save more children.

Mr Pavisich said his daughter was a different girl.

"She's in grade four this year and it's the first time she has been able to do a Monday to Friday at school," he said.

"She was so unwell in the past even a cold could have had her off school for a month. But now she's amazing and can do anything."

To register as an organ donor go to donatelife.gov.au.

Two weeks before she finished her treatment I was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma."Brooke Pavisich's father Alan

The West Australian

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