Cathy Camilleri and her family have been to Sargood many times since it first opened in 2017; in fact, its become one of their favourite places. The lockdown during the pandemic meant they weren’t able to visit for the majority of this year, but they made sure they were one of the first guests when Sargood opened again in October.
Belle Camilleri was just three and a half when she was hit by a truck and suffered a spinal cord injury, leaving her paralysed below the waist.
“Before Sargood opened, we had only been on one holiday since the accident,” says Cathy, mother of Belle, now 11. “We stayed in a normal hotel and we realised just how hard it was. We had to take Belle’s air mattress and other equipment with us, there was no ramp to the pool so we had to carry her, and there was no way of getting her down to the beach. There were so many things she missed out on – we never did it again.”
Their first visit to Sargood was the start of a whole new way of holidaying. It has been a godsend, not just for Belle but also for Cathy, her husband Troy, Belle’s brother 9-year-old Nate and their extended family.
“Belle loves it and so does Nate,” says Cathy. “They love all the activities – cycling, swimming, snorkelling, tennis and going on the beach buggy. The rock pool down at the beach is probably Belle’s favourite. The wonderful thing is they get to do activities together. Belle knows that Sargood is designed for her and that it’s the one place where she isn’t going to miss out on anything due to her injury.”
The family no longer needs to take Belle’s mattress with them as Sargood provides everything. “There’s a celling hoist if we want that and there’s a special shower-bath that she uses too. There’s also plenty of space in the rooms and common areas for her wheelchair,” says Cathy. “There really aren’t any challenges in travelling when we go to Sargood. I also know, especially if I go by myself with the kids, that I can get the help of staff to lift her in and out of things – or to do anything really. You can’t assume you will have help elsewhere.”
Sargood has given Belle the confidence to see what she is able to achieve. “She can try the bikes and see if that’s something she wants to get into. She can test out the various technologies and equipment and see what’s out there that she may be able to use in the future.”
The Camilleri’s also enjoy meeting other families who have a child with an SCI. During their visit in October, they met another family who had an 11 year old with an SCI, and he also had siblings around the same age. “All the kids did a lot of stuff together so that was really lovely,” says Cathy.
“Troy and I also learn a lot from speaking to other parents. For example, this family told us about the wheelchair sports their boy was into, and we thought that could be something Belle might like too. We will most likely meet up with them again through those kinds of activities.
“It’s also really nice to chat about some of the issues that crop up when you have a child with an SCI, and hear about other people’s experiences. We have met a number of other families through Sargood over the years that we keep in touch with.”
“It really is a wonderful place. We can take the extended family and enjoy time all together. My eldest son is married with a baby, so they sometimes join us, as do my parents. Our whole family loves Sargood and I don’t think we would holiday anywhere else.”