National Family Week: Family pull together to look after special Liam

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Sara Smith with her sons Owen and Liam and daughter Alyssa.
Camera IconSara Smith with her sons Owen and Liam and daughter Alyssa. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

At just 15 years old, Albany’s Liam Smith is living with 25 different medical complexities but no formal diagnosis.

He suffers from arthritis, epilepsy, osteoporosis, spinal fractures and asthma — to name just a few.

He also has mental developmental issues and needs to be fed through a peg.

His mother Sara Smith has opened up about her son for National Families Week, a celebration of the strength of families that runs from May 15-21 every year.

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Liam’s condition has worsened since the age of seven.

Throughout his medical examinations and treatments, his family have been kept together at a home away from home — Ronald McDonald House in Perth.

They are the longest-term current residents, having stayed for a total of 329 nights, travelling 40,000km to and from Perth for hospital appointments.

“No one really knows what is going on with Liam — he is a complex medical case,” Ms Smith said.

“We have been referred to the undiagnosed team at Princess Margaret Hospital. They go through his whole file and see if there are bits of the puzzle that we can possibly link to get some answers to what is going on.

“But we might not get an answer. We just manage the bits we can with the bits we do know that are going on.”

The Smith family, including brother Owen, 16, and sister Alyssa, 14, work as a team when it comes to helping Liam through his conditions.

“The balancing act is hard sometimes,” Ms Smith said.

“It is communication and it is working together.

“I always include the other two on what is going on.

“His brother and sister have a lot to do with it as well and they always step in when they can ... I can’t do it without them.

“I work as a therapy assistant for Silver Chain, so that is probably why I am such a strong advocate for Liam — I don’t give up and back down easily.”

The family still use Ronald McDonald House regularly when Liam is at PMH.

“We all stay in the same room,” she said.

“When they can, the team entertains the other kids to take their mindset off the negative and on to the positive.

“It isn’t always focused on the bad things.”

While Ms Smith is doubtful Liam’s journey will get easier in the near future, she said her family were staying positive.

“Going through this, it might be able to help someone else some day,” she said.

“If we can help someone else in the long term, even if we don’t get an answer for Liam now, that is still a benefit.”

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