16 September 2020 Home page

William’s story

The ECMO which saved Williams’s life was made possible with funds from the Woolworths and Children’s Hospital Foundation partnership.

On behalf of thousands of sick kids and their families across the state, the Children’s Hospital Foundation are thanking Woolworths teams and their customers for working hand in hand to raise more than $60 million over 34 years to positively shift health outcomes for Queensland’s sickest kids.

The generosity of Woolworths customers and team has helped fund ground-breaking medical research, entertainment, and support for kids and their families, including the development of a rapid diagnostic test for meningococcal; bedside entertainment at Queensland Children’s Hospital, innovative research into childhood nutrition, and life-saving medical treatment such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which saved the life of 18-month-old Brisbane local, William McKillop.

When William was born in March 2019 at 38 weeks, his doctors advised that three-hourly glucose tests would be done to be on the safe side, as William weighed only 2.9 kilograms.

When his mum noticed the next morning that William’s fingers were ice-cold, his glucose test was brought forward by an hour, revealing that William had extremely low blood sugar, and he was struggling to breathe.

He was immediately placed on antibiotics, but when it was clear these were not working as William’s condition continued to deteriorate, he was diagnosed with Group B streptococcus (a bacterium that can be passed from mother to baby during labour) which led to sepsis – a life-threatening condition which occurs when the body’s response to infection becomes so severe that organs start shutting down, which can lead to death and disability. William was also fighting pneumonia.

His parents, Kathryn and Tom, recall being told that William was not showing a positive response to the antibiotics, so it was likely they would lose him.

“We were broken and numb, and we felt reluctant to even flirt with any feelings of hope or optimism, in case the worst came to pass,” Tom said.

William was stable the next morning, but doctors were struggling to keep him there, which is when it was decided that William, at only 36 hours old, would be transferred to the Queensland Children’s Hospital and placed on ECMO –  a life support technique which takes over the function of the heart and lungs while the body is fighting illness or injury.

The Children’s Hospital Foundation has purchased a number of pumps and monitors for the Queensland Children’s Hospital ECMO service, through Woolworths’ generous fundraising efforts.

After five days on ECMO, William had all but beaten the infection and was successfully taken off ECMO, before spending another five days in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit learning how to breathe on his own again.

“Once William was on ECMO, he didn’t look back, and every day was better than the day before so we could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kathryn said.

“We were one of the lucky families whose time at the Queensland Children’s Hospital ends in a miracle, and we will be forever grateful to the hospital, the incredible staff, and Woolworths, whose contributions funded the research and equipment which were literally life saving for our son.”

The ECMO which saved William’s life is just one of the many pieces of vital medical equipment that the Woolworths and Children’s Hospital Foundation partnership has helped make possible.

Forever a fighter, William no longer requires any check-ups or appointments at the hospital and is now thriving at home, having recently embarked on his first-ever beach trip, where he learned the hard way that sand is not for eating.

More than 30 children receive ECMO at the Queensland Children’s Hospital annually.

Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO, Rosie Simpson, could not be more grateful for the support that Woolworths teams and their customers have shown, showcasing that famous Queensland community spirit.

“When visiting my local store, I love seeing the Woolworths team’s enthusiasm at collecting donations, and of course, the incredible customers who give so generously and lovingly to help our cause, and for that, I say thank you to the Woolworths community and customers for all your support,” Ms Simpson said.

“Celebrating the incredible milestone of $60m raised gives us a chance for us to say thank you, and formally recognise that we simply couldn’t do what we do for sick children without the generosity of the Woolworths team and their customers.”

Chris Peters, Woolworths General Manager Queensland, said this donation would not have been possible without their amazing community of team members and customers.

“60 million dollars is an absolutely huge sum to have raised, and we’re very proud of the effort that our teams and customers have put in,” Mr Peters said.

“We feel so privileged to have such an incredible base of team members and customers in both Queensland and across the country, who are so willing to help a cause close to all of our hearts, and it’s incredible to see the impact that their determination and empathy has had on hundreds and thousands of sick kids and their families.”


60 million reasons to say thank you, William is just one of them.