Little Rita spent Christmas Day at Queensland Childrens Hospital in Brisbane as there aren't enough specialists to assist her in Bundaberg.
Little Rita spent Christmas Day at Queensland Childrens Hospital in Brisbane as there aren't enough specialists to assist her in Bundaberg.

Heartbreaking battle little fighter almost lost twice

A GIN GIN mother is hoping to celebrate her daughter's birthday back at home after almost losing her baby girl not once, but twice.

Mother-of-three Jodie Winderlich is grateful her 23-month-old daughter is still alive after a viral upper respiratory tract infection escalated, almost killing her and leaving her in a coma.

An X-ray revealed Rita had fluid around her left lung and she was flown to the Queensland Children's Hospital on November 18.

Within hours of landing in Brisbane, tragedy struck.

Rita went into septic shock, her heart stopping twice for several minutes before she was placed in an induced coma for more than 30 days.

"We lost her for three minutes the first time and four minutes the second time," Ms Winderlich said.

LITTLE FIGHTER: Mother Jodie Winderfich said the confronting photo of Rita fighting for her life was a reminder of how far her daughter had come.
Mother Jodie Winderfich said the confronting photo of Rita fighting for her life was a reminder of how far her daughter had come.

"It was very scary.

Now awake, Rita's condition has improved, but her mother said she still had a long road ahead with at least a few months of rehabilitation.

"We now have to have speech therapy for her swallowing, a dietitian to try and work her diet back to what it was, and we also have to have physio to try to teach her to crawl again," she said.

"Because she's been tube-fed for nearly six weeks now, we have to do it all again, and she just won't touch food."

Although Rita is healthy enough to head home, a lack of necessary specialists in Bundaberg means she and Ms Winderlich are stuck hours away from family until she no longer requires frequent attention.

"They offer those services but only a couple of days a week, and Rita needs it at least three to four times a week," Ms Winderlich said.

"It's just so frustrating, because if Bundaberg had even an extra day or two of facilities, we could be home."

TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS: All Ms Winderlich and her partner's children (left to right) Zachary, Leticia, Jorja, Hayden, and Rita in pram.
TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS: Baby Rita in her pram with her siblings Zachary (left), Leticia, Jorja and Hayden.

She said they would have to remain in Brisbane for at least a week, but hoped they could return home in time for Rita's second birthday on January 20, but there was no guarantee.

"We've been staying at the Ronald McDonald house, and they are absolutely fabulous," she said.

"They are godsends, they really are."

Fortunately, the frightening situation hadn't ruined Christmas - her partner and step-kids made the trip to the city so the family could all be together.

"It was the best of a bad situation, as we put it," she said.

 

ON THE MEND: Little Rita is showing improvement, but has a long road ahead of her.
ON THE MEND: Little Rita is showing improvement, but has a long road ahead of her.

"I've made some absolutely beautiful friends from other mothers at the Ronald McDonald house, that are going to be life-long friends."

Although it's a shocking sight, Ms Winderlich said she would cherish a particular photo of her little girl, covered in tubes and fighting for her life, for a heart-warming reason.

"It's very confronting, but we like to have that photo to remind us where she's come from," she said.

"We've gone from a machine helping her live and pumping the blood out of her heart, to sitting up awake.

"It makes you realise how you take things for granted in life."