City’s new children’s ward will help Baxter stay busy

Baxter Ericksen is a busy two-year-old in keeping up and having fun with sisters Molly and Iris. His complex, and largely unclear symptoms, means Baxter has fast become a popular face in Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital. His parents says the children’s ward redevelopment will make a big difference for their young family. Picture: Leigh Ericksen
Baxter Ericksen is a busy two-year-old in keeping up and having fun with sisters Molly and Iris. His complex, and largely unclear symptoms, means Baxter has fast become a popular face in Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital. His parents says the children’s ward redevelopment will make a big difference for their young family. Picture: Leigh Ericksen

CHEEKY Baxter Ericksen is a busy boy who refuses to let anything slow him down.

Baxter was born at 32 weeks and, with a complex medical history, has become a popular and familiar face about Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital in his two and a half years.

The Ericksen family is sharing their story in a bid to both raise awareness for children with unclear symptoms, like Baxter has, and for the big difference the redeveloped Base children’s ward will have for Ballarat families.

Parents Emma and Leigh Ericksen say the little things, like more ease to grab a quick cup of coffee and toast, will be invaluable but so too will the greater level of care in a familiar environment with familiar staff in their hometown. 

Baxter had a long stay in the BHS special care nursery and was a quite a sick, little boy in his first year of life.

Just after his first birthday, Baxter stopped breathing. Urgent head scans revealed fluid on the brain and the part of the brain that controls coordination and muscle movement had pushed into the space normally occupied by the spinal cord. 

Baxter is unable to move his head forward without cutting off his breathing.

SPECIAL APPEAL: Sebastopol toddler Baxter Ericksen has been the face of Ballarat Health Services' ongoing appeal for the children's ward redevelopment. Baxter has complex, largely unclear symptoms and requires ongoing hospital care. Picture: Leigh Ericksen

SPECIAL APPEAL: Sebastopol toddler Baxter Ericksen has been the face of Ballarat Health Services' ongoing appeal for the children's ward redevelopment. Baxter has complex, largely unclear symptoms and requires ongoing hospital care. Picture: Leigh Ericksen

“It got to a point where Baxter needed a level of care but the care Ballarat could offer was no longer at that level,” Ms Ericksen said. “Now he’s a big bigger we can go into the Base more. Mostly it’s because, like a typical curious two-year-old, he keeps pulling out his feeding tube and because his anatomy’s a bit different, it is hard to get back in.”

A proposed short-stay unit will particularly help in times when Baxter picks up a virus.

Baxter wears a full body brace, including a helmet-like headpiece to keep his head propped up. He will need surgery in a few years’ time to infuse his spine.

Ms Ericksen said Baxter’s appearance. She found many people incorrectly assumed her son was a cancer patient, because of the tube, or that he had been in a car accident or badly hurt because of the helmet.

The family is part of organisation SWAN (symptoms without a name) and finds support from families who might be affected by different symptoms, but who have similar medical and social experiences.

Ms Ericksen said Base hospital staff were incredible working with a condition that had a lot of unknowns, and included both parents in Baxter’s care decision. They were happy to share their story for the hospital’s annual Easter appeal, which remains open, to raise money and awareness for the children’s ward.

Baxter with sisters Molly and Iris. Picture: Leigh Ericksen

Baxter with sisters Molly and Iris. Picture: Leigh Ericksen

BHS’ children’s ward redevelopment is on schedule to open mid-year.

BHS foundation and fundraising director Geoff Millar said there had been a positive response to the Easter appeal, but there was always more the hospital could do in equipment and facilities to help made the new children’s ward better for families.

“The new ward is really patient-centred and families are welcome because we know having mum and dad around can help improve health outcomes for children,” Mr Millar said. “We want to try and accommodate that more, the little things, in the new ward.”

To donate, or find out more, visit bhs.org.au.

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