Why this mum stole her dying daughter

GYMPIE mum Tina Ramsdell became a fugitive nine years ago when she ran away with her terminally ill five-year-old daughter, Brandy.

Today, the former Kin Kin mother shares her story to make people think twice before judging the British couple who have been arrested after fleeing their country with their very sick little boy.

Ms Ramsdell said when parents had tried the formal options - as she had - and there was little hope of a positive outcome, parents should be allowed to be involved.

"If it's terminal and they can't help him, then he shouldn't be plugged in like a computer," she said.

"Hospitals are torturous; they have a horrible smell, stainless, steel, bleeping noises, no furniture and no warmth.

"Why would you leave a child to have their last day there?

"The first time, great, but after that it is almost like they are using them as guinea pigs.

"I hope that (the British family) know they are not alone."

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Little Brandy turned six in 2004, two weeks after she was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia - the kind of cancer few survive.

Brandy underwent six months of chemotherapy at the Royal Brisbane's Children's Hospital to try and fight the disease.

Then she was sent home. A month later she started getting sick again.

The only option was for her to go back to hospital and face more needles, more tests, more sterile rooms and a treatment that already had been shown to have little effect.

"The one doctor in Eumundi said "my God, we are dealing with cancer, take her to hospital".

"He said he would give me two days before he let the hospital know she had presented with cancer again.

"I got a phone call from the hospital saying they realised Brandy had cancer again and I was to bring her in within the hour.

"I had already decided she was not going back there.

"Her chances of survival were literally 2% that second time. The hospital didn't have anything new to offer, except more chemo.

"I decided not again. Chemo is horrible, it is torturous. They stick a giant needle in your back for tests; we had to hold her down while they did this (the first time).

"So I packed her bags, told the hospital I was several hours away and then left. I knew if I didn't take her, welfare would take over and I would no longer be in charge of my own child. I had to run, I guess."

Ms Ramsdell first fled to a family house in New South Wales, then later to a home near Brisbane.

She hid for five days as police launched a nationwide hunt.

It was only on the fourth day that Ms Ramsdell became aware of the extent of the search and that she was close to being found.

"I knew they would be there the next morning as someone had told them where we were," she said.

What she didn't expect was the scale of the police response to bring her and her sick little girl into custody.

"The police came; the street was full of ambulances; there were police cars, detectives and two choppers overhead. It was full on. I wasn't arrested; I was taken straight to the Royal Brisbane."

Here she spent all day in the emergency department under the watchful eye of police. Welfare came in and told her her daughter "was under the care of the state".

After one day in hospital, doctors confirmed what she already knew. Brandy was dying and nothing could be done.

She was allowed to take her daughter home.

"I was trying to protect her; she was in a horrible place. Police seemed to be waiting around, to find out whether they should arrest me.

"The hospital was really understanding though. They said to me 'Brandy is really sick'. I knew that. They said 'she is going to die'. I knew that too."

A month after Brandy was discharged from hospital, on August 29, 2005, she died in the comfort of her own home with her mum at her side.

"I phoned my GP to let them know, but she rang the police and the next thing detectives were visiting me again.

"Brandy was passed away on the lounge; I had washed her, dressed her and put a fly net over her.

"The detectives were here all day and were very respectful. They let me be with her, like I had planned, but their boss wanted her body.

"She was taken to Brisbane's John Tonge Centre (the mortuary) where she was kept for three days while the cause of her death was determined.

"I ended up ringing the child advocate at the Royal Brisbane to get involved."

After three days, Brandy was allowed to go to a funeral parlour and the family was able to plan her farewell in Kin Kin.

"You don't have control, not when it is life or death," Ms Ramsdell said.

Gympie Times

Topics:  editors picks kin kin terminal illness

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