BRIGID O’CONNELL and DUNCAN ABEY From: The Sunday Tasmanian October 06, 2013 12:00AM
IT was a homecoming months in the making — a fight for life that united a community as it threatened to tear the lives of a young family apart.
Burnie’s Xander Redman was already a miracle baby for parents Tara Anderson, 21, and Matthew Redman, 24, who were told not to expect children after Matthew’s teenage battle with cancer.
Until last week, one-year-old Xander had spent most of his short life not in the rolling hills of his North-West Coast home but as a patient of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital awaiting a new liver.
When the call finally came, after false starts and dashed hopes, the experience was bittersweet for Xander’s parents.
They knew the price of their family’s elation had been paid with the grief of others and have drafted a letter to them to express their gratitude.
“I don’t think words will ever be enough,” Matthew said.
“We owe them not just Xander’s life, but ours as well. We can’t imagine life without him now.”
Xander’s return to Tasmania is testament not only to the skills of the Royal Children’s Hospital surgery team or the faith of his parents, but to a community who refused to let him go.
The young family’s situation may have seemed impossibly dark in the past few months but the support of North-West Coasters acted as a constant beacon.
Almost every shop in the Circular Head community had a donation tin on the counter.
Matthew Redman and Tara Anderson with one-year-old Xander. Picture: Stewart Mark
The Rotary Club of Smithton and the Van Diemens Land Company, which employs Tara’s parents, held a masquerade ball attended by 400 people that raised $30,000.
Elders Real Estate agent Crighton Horton, who ran the charity auction, understands.
His eight-year-old daughter was born with serious health problems and had many stays at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
“The only thing you can do is keep going forward, he said. “Even when you go home, it doesn’t stop.”
Tara’s aunty Aleisha Anderson, of Mawbanna, organised the charity auction.
“People dug deep because they knew all the money was going straight to them,” she said.
“Tara is pretty well known in the area. The whole community got behind it.”
Woolworths transferred Matthew’s job in Burnie to Melbourne.
Cousins raided their piggy banks to chip in and families held garage sales.
Doctors said Xander’s misery until now had been like living with a constant hangover but the creamy-pink of his skin was the most obvious sign the liver from the anonymous donor was working.
For a baby who has spent most of his life in a hospital cot on his back, the transformation is staggering.
Xander has gained enough neck strength to hold himself up in a high chair. Four teeth are popping through. His new favourite thing is waving to people.
He has just discovered the full power of his legs, jolting himself so high in his bouncer that the springs jar.
Matthew and Tara have set a date for their wedding — they will marry in four weeks — when Xander’s immune system will be up to seeing friends and family.
Tara and Matthew want to thank people of the North-West Coast for having their backs when the chips were down and for defining what community actually means.
“We’ll be forever grateful to the people of Circular Head,” Tara said.