Million-dollar toddler is home after surgery
By NERIDA BLOK
GOONELLABAH's million-dollar toddler, Phelicity Sneesby, arrived home safely last night after surviving life-saving heart surgery in the United States.
The three-year-old flew home with father Ben, mother Veronica, sister Mahalia, 4, and recent family addition, Arabella, who was born in the US on July 6.
Sissy, as she is known, underwent the complex surgery for a rare heart condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She is unlikely to need more surgery for at least 10 years.
Northern Rivers and Central Coast residents have generously supported the Sneesby family's fund-raising appeal, contributing $20,000 towards the surgery bill totalling more than $1 million.
"She's our million-dollar baby," Ben said.
"We like to call it our life-time payment plan."
Ben last night said the family was pleased to be home after five months away.
"It was well worth the trip and hopefully there will be no more surgery for 10-15 years," he said.
Sissy had the gruelling eight hour operation at the same Columbus Children's Hospital in Ohio where she was operated on at birth in 2002.
When she was born the operation could not be performed in Australia.
"We knew at 19 weeks she had it (heart disease), so we flew over to the States at 28 weeks so she could be born there," Ben said.
"She wouldn't make it otherwise."
Sissy's Lismore paediatrician, Dr Chris Ingall, recommended that subsequent surgery, needed to strengthen her heart so it could function into adulthood, be done by the same surgeon.
But mounting medical bills took their toll on the Sneesby family. They flew to the States in April with just $70 left in savings.
"We really appreciate all the help given," Ben said of the community donations received.
"Without their help we all would not have been able to go and spend the time with Phelicity as a family."
Ben, who owns and runs a multi-media recording studio from their Goonellabah home, called BeesNeez, said the plan now was to get on with life.