Illawarra coalminers support Wollongong Hospital's sick kids

Miners Joe Sleiman and Stephen Bourke with Director of Paediatrics and Child Health Dr Susie Piper and 15-month-old Isla Rowiri at Wollongong Hospital Children’s Ward. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Miners Joe Sleiman and Stephen Bourke with Director of Paediatrics and Child Health Dr Susie Piper and 15-month-old Isla Rowiri at Wollongong Hospital Children’s Ward. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

They may seem like a tough bunch, but more than 300 Illawarra coalminers have shown their true colours by dipping into their pay packets to help sick kids.

Joe Sleiman and Stephen Bourke from Illawarra Coal’s Appin mine handed over a cheque for $7000 to Wollongong Hospital’s children’s ward on Monday, a sum that will pay for two machines to help babies and young children breathe easy.

‘‘The Airvo2 allows us to deliver respiratory support to babies and children in respiratory distress,’’ said Dr Susie Piper, director of paediatrics and child health.

‘‘The most common condition it’s used for is bronchiolitis, a winter virus that just causes a cough or cold in an adult but can cause severe respiratory distress in babies and young children.

‘‘This machine allows us to deliver humidified, high-flow oxygen which assists the child with their breathing.’’

The children’s ward will get one of the machines while the other will be located in the hospital’s paediatric emergency department.

Mr Sleiman said the miners’ fund-raiser started out to help fellow miners going through hard times.

‘‘We instigated a $50 deduction per union member (CFMEU) at Appin mine to help out the (then NRE) miners from Russell Vale and Wongawilli mines who went without pay for nearly two months last year,’’ he said.

‘‘We raised $15,000 and while the Russell Vale miners accepted it, the miners at Wongawilli returned the $7000 to us. Our miners voted to donate it on to the children’s ward to help local kids.

‘‘There’s a lot of turmoil in the industry at the moment with blokes getting laid off, so it’s helped lift our spirits to be doing something positive.’’

Shellharbour mother Renee Rowiri said the miners’ donation would help hundreds of families with sick children.

Her own little girl Isla has spent more than nine of her 15 months in hospital and has required the Airvo machine on a number of occasions.

‘‘We found out Isla had two holes in her heart when I was 32 weeks pregnant, and then she was born at 34 weeks,’’ Ms Rowiri said.

‘‘She had a lot of breathing difficulties and needed open-heart surgery at two months and then got sick with bronchiolitis.

‘‘Having equipment like this helps not only my daughter but so many other children and I think this donation is just wonderful.’’

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