You can call him Sergeant!
Don't be surprised if you one day have to address 10-year-old Syel as "Sergeant"! His dream is to be a policeman when he grows up.
Inspired by his hero Sergeant Mick McCrann from the popular Channel 7 TV show Highway Patrol, Syel (or 'Sy' to his friends!) loves dressing up in his policeman outfit. His mum Lisa says his face lights up whenever he gets the chance to watch the show. It’s that kind of happiness that's so precious to Syel and his family.
Before Sy was born, an ultrasound revealed he had a brain cyst and mum and dad were told their little baby would need surgery soon after he was born. At just three months old, Sy had an operation to insert a shunt to drain the cerebral spinal fluid from his brain. He endured two further brain surgeries as a young boy.
His mum Lisa said: "Syel was later diagnosed with autism and has learning difficulties. But he's the first to help out others and has such a strong sense of empathy."
Two years ago, life changed immeasurably for this happy, caring little boy when he suffered a major seizure. He was rushed to the Children's Hospital at Westmead where doctors ran tests. Syel was diagnosed with Complex Epilepsy. The shock was unimaginable for the close-knit family.
"We didn't know anyone else with Epilepsy so there was a very steep learning curve when it came to understanding what we were dealing with," Lisa said.
The weeks that followed were overwhelming and at times, confusing. Sy's life of bike riding, rollerblading, soccer and laughing with his friends was replaced by fear, uncertainty and long stays in hospital.
The biggest impact on family life are the long, exhausting days in hospital. Lisa or dad Feras always stayed overnight in hospital which was hard on Syel's older sisters Grace and Adelaide. The girls are very close to their little brother and it was difficult for them to be apart.
"Adelaide, Sy's oldest sister, dotes on him and has done from a very young age," Lisa said. "And Grace, Sy's middle sister, always has so much fun with him – they even built a cubby house together."
The family has learned to adapt to their new life, but they’ve had to limit some of Sy's activities so he often misses out on every day fun that other kids take for granted.
That's why the Starlight Express Room is so important to Syel and his family. When Sy's in hospital, the Starlight Express Room is a place where he can be a kid again without worrying about his illness or why he’s been admitted. It's so much fun that when he’s well enough, Sy visits a few times daily and sometimes is joined by his sisters and grandmas!
"In the Starlight Express Room, we can shut the world out and just have some fun."
Every Starlight Express Room is a haven for families to take a break and be together. The activities, games and positive distraction provided by Captain Starlight help kids forget they're sick.
Lisa said Starlight has been a vital part of Syel's recovery - physically, emotionally and psychologically.
Starlight is there like a ray of sunshine in what can be the darkest and scariest times in a child's and their family's life,Syel's mum, Lisa
Well, thanks to our supporters, there's another ray of sunshine coming to brighten Syel's day - his Starlight Wish, which just so happens to be the 10,000th Starlight Wish!
Syel's Starlight Wish is to meet his idol Sergeant Mick McCrann and be his police partner, learning from the best!
Lisa said Sy could hardly contain his happiness when they told him he’d been granted his very own Starlight Wish.
"His face suddenly exploded with excitement and he said: “I’m going to meet Mick McCrann, how cool is that!"
Sy can't wait for his wish to happen and everyday he's getting more excited and planning what to say when he finally meets his hero in real life. And Lisa said he's been wearing his dress-up police uniform as much as he can, in preparation for the special moment!
Sy's Starlight Wish will no doubt be an experience he, his family and his idol will cherish forever.
We know that Sy will have a challenging road ahead in life, but our focus is to make sure that he has experiences and opportunities right now that enable him to live his life to its fullest -regardless of what may lie ahead.Sy's mum, Lisa
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