The rugby league community is being asked to “dig deep” into its collective pocket to assist the family of a well-known Newcastle mentor.
Robbie Payne, who boasts strong links with the Macquarie Scorpions and Lakes United Seagulls, and former partner Mel are currently overseeing the health of their daughter Ruby as she awaits to undergo an urgent double lung transplant.
A GoFundMe page, organised by relative Belinda Williams, has been established with a goal of raising $75,000 to ease the financial pressure on the much-loved couple.
Payne is also recognised for his role in nurturing junior development throughout the region.
Ironically, Ruby was born on the morning of 10 September 2011, just hours before her dad captain-coached Windale to an A grade premiership in its 50th year.
But, he and Mel are now tackling their toughest battle.
Ruby was diagnosed in August 2019 with a rare condition called Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension at the age of eight, a progressive disorder characterised by high blood pressure (hypertension) in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary artery) for no apparent reason.
About 1% of people globally have it.
“Mel and Robbie were devastated with Ruby’s diagnosis as they learnt of the difficult road that she would encounter over the coming years,” Belinda said of her young niece.
“In 2019, she started oral medication to try and slow and improve her disease progression.
“Over the past four years, Ruby’s undergone countless echos, cardiac MRIs, blood tests and right heart catheter procedures with constant trips to her incredible cardiac team at the Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney.
“The numerous oral medications kept her relatively stable up until December when her pulmonary pressures increased significantly… and her exercise tolerance reduced further.
“In June, Ruby had a procedure at Westmead to insert a central line in her chest so that she could receive intravenous therapy to try and reduce the pressures.
“Unfortunately, this has been unsuccessful, and the only treatment option left for her is to undergo a double lung transplant.
“This procedure for children along the east coast of Australia is only performed in Melbourne at The Alfred Hospital.
“Sadly, Ruby had to be readmitted to Westmead earlier this month as her body was retaining excess fluid and her heart, lungs and liver were struggling.
“Initially, we had hoped she could go home to Newcastle until a donor was available.
“But, due to her recent deterioration, her case has been escalated on the transplant list and she now needs urgent lungs.
“Ruby’s been transferred from Westmead to The Alfred where she will be kept in ICU until her amazing donor lungs are available.”
The Paynes, meanwhile, will relocate to Melbourne and stay there until approximately three months post-transplant to support their daughter during this time.
Afterwards, with any luck, Ruby is set to be transferred back to Westmead for continued rehabilitation.
“The costs associated with this will be significant with Mel and Robbie being unable to work as they support Ruby through her surgery and recovery,” Belinda said.
“Over the past nine months, there have been many admissions to Westmead and John Hunter Hospital.
“It’s left both Mel and Robbie with very limited paid leave, so their time in Melbourne and Sydney will be largely at their expense.
“Covering the costs away from home and keeping their individual family households afloat will be incredibly tough for them.
“Both Mel and Robbie have been reluctant to ask for help… however, they now need our support.”
Belinda also praised the grit of her niece.
“Through this whole ordeal, Ruby has been incredibly strong and brave, showing time and time again her resilience,” she said.
“Despite all of her challenges, she still manages to show that beautiful smile of hers.
“We can’t wait for her to breathe easy and will forever be grateful for organ donation.
“I know with Mel and Robbie by her side, along with the support from the rest of her family and friends, this will be achieved.”
To support the Paynes, visit the GoFundMe page.
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