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Covid survivor Sesilia Palusa had no symptoms when she first tested positive. In a short space of time, the 27-year-old mother of two was sent by ambulance to Royal North Shore Hospital where she spent three weeks in a coma fighting for her life. As Sesilia’s story confirms, there’s never been a more important time to support our hospital and frontline workers.

The NORTH Foundation Christmas appeal raises funds for the Northern Sydney Local Health District, which includes Royal North Shore Hospital, Ryde Hospital, Hornsby Kur-ring-gai Hospital and others. Running from now until the end of January 2022, the NORTH Foundation hopes to raise awareness about how providing high-quality patient care despite the challenges of COVID-19 has remained the highest priority for our hospitals and healthcare workers.

NORTH Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Gilbert Lorquet said: “It’s important for people to know they can give back to their local hospital,” he said. “Throughout the last two years, the everyday healthcare needs of our community have continued, and our hospitals have kept serving the community – no matter what the health challenge has been.”

This year, the main signatory of the letter Dr Sarah Wesley, the Deputy Director of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Royal North Shore Hospital and a Senior Intensive Care Specialist, shares her experience as a COVID-19 frontline worker, and she talks about how staff have been quick to adapt and respond to the challenges of the last two years. You can read Dr Sarah Wesley’s letter and the patient stories that are being shared as part of this year’s Christmas Appeal here.

“This Christmas, we are hoping to raise funds to support our local hospitals and healthcare workers but we cannot do this without your support,” says Mr Lorquet.

The NORTH Foundation is also encouraging members of the community to leave a ‘message of thanks’ about the care they received to bring some Christmas joy to healthcare workers here.

Sesilia’s Story

In late July this year, Sesilia Palusa’s husband was feeling unwell with what seemed like a cold. Even though Sesilia didn’t have any symptoms, they both got tested for COVID-19 to be safe and their results were positive.

Within a day, Sesilia started feeling exhausted and had no energy to play with her two young daughters. Her breathing got progressively worse but the virtual health team checked in on her every day and sent Sesilia a kit to monitor her oxygen levels. A few days later, her results were so alarmingly low that they told her to go straight to hospital. Sesilia went by ambulance to Royal North Shore Hospital where she spent three weeks in a coma, fighting for her life.

“The last thing I remember was struggling to breathe.”

For three weeks, Sesilia was on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that provided life support, temporarily taking over the work of her lungs. Sesilia’s sister Sana recalls how difficult it was for her and the rest of Sesilia’s family, not to be able to visit and be by her side.

“We were lucky the doctors kept us informed, regularly contacting us, no matter how small the update was.”

To help Sesilia’s family stay connected to her, ICU nurses set up a video link so her loved ones could check-in and talk to her even though she couldn’t respond. Sana remembers,

“One day the doctor called to say Sesilia was sitting up, and the happiness we felt is hard to explain.”

When Sesilia was discharged from the ICU, the staff clapped her out while she cried tears of joy. After a week in a ward, Sesilia left and surprised her whole family by arriving home one afternoon.

After spending many weeks at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sesilia is thankful for the doctors and nurses.

“I’m very grateful to the staff for saving my life, they went above and beyond for me and I’m lucky they were by my side 24/7 when my family couldn’t be.”


Sesilia and her story are featured as part of the Christmas appeal for the NORTH Foundation, the official charity partner for the Northern Sydney Local Health District. This year, the fundraising appeal includes a letter from Dr Wesley and more patient stories. In addition to making a much-needed donation, the NORTH Foundation is also calling for people in the community to write a ‘message of thanks’ to their healthcare workers and hospitals. To learn more or to donate to the NORTH Foundation, visit: https://bit.ly/christmas-appeal-donate-today

So come on Willoughby Living followers, show your support in any way you can!