Little Thomas Marchetto making huge strides with the help of Rocky Bay and Telethon

Posted January 4, 2024
Little Thomas Marchetto making huge strides with the help of Rocky Bay and Telethon

When cheeky little Thomas Marchetto took his first steps just after his second birthday, proud mum Ashleigh Harman couldn’t contain her joy.

“It felt so exciting … I was filming it, and I just screamed so loud,” she said.

“I just remind myself that everything he does now, he couldn’t do months ago, and that’s what keeps me going.”

Thomas, now nearly three, was born prematurely at 24 weeks in Subiaco’s King Edward Memorial Hospital, where he spent the first months of his life in intensive care.

He underwent surgery for a hernia, fought off a staph infection and sepsis, and battled a collapsed lung.

For 172 days, Ms Harman travelled by bus or train to be with her precious baby in hospital, not knowing whether he would be able to hold on until she could be by his side again the next morning.

“I got to see him grow and develop from the outside as he would from inside (the womb),” she said.

“He had no cartilage when he was born, and I could just feel every day that it was getting harder and harder.

“NICU was tough, everyone tells you there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it doesn’t really feel like it at the time.

Ashleigh Harman and her son Thomas Marchetto.
Ashleigh Harman and her son Thomas Marchetto. Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

“But now he’s here, and he’s healthy and happy, and that’s all anyone can ask for.”

Thomas was later diagnosed with global developmental delay (GDD), and his parents were advised he could be on the autism spectrum.

However, he was able to access a physiotherapist at the hospital until he turned one and has since gotten the help he needs through Rocky Bay’s Early Start Intervention Program.

With support from Telethon since 2021, the program provides 12 months of research-based therapy for children aged 0-5 years with developmental delays, diagnosis of a rare disease or a range of risk factors.

Families can access multidisciplinary intensive therapy and support to work towards their child’s own goals in their home or the community.

Since starting in January, Thomas has received help from speech pathologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists through the program.

And he has since been smashing his goals, with his bright and playful personality keeping his mum and therapists in stitches.

“Thomas has made some amazing progress,” physiotherapist Ty Kowalski said.

“When he started…he wasn’t walking, showing delays in certain age-appropriate skills and not talking or making sounds.

“Now, with the program, he’s started walking, we’re working on getting up and down stairs, there is improvement in him brushing his teeth, and he is engaging in joint play.”

Ms Harman said getting therapy at home had given Thomas the comfort and confidence he needed to show off his new skills to his therapists.

“Previously, he did tend to catch up later than his other NICU friends, but he has come such a long way for the amount of time he’s been with Rocky Bay,” Ms Harman said.

First published 17 October 2023 an The West Online.