'Who's to say the risk won't have been worth it?': Tom Steinfort
On my 21st birthday, my dad sort of let slip in his speech that I was an accident and the family couldn’t quite afford a fifth child back in 1984.
But they loved all of their kids so much that they just tightened their belts, strapped up their bootlaces, and looking back wouldn’t have had it any other way.
And maybe that’s why, contrary to logic, I actually can’t help but tip my hat to Andrew and Olivia Densley, who’ve walked a road tougher than just about any other parents in Australia.
Their family is not just one of medical challenges, but also one of monumental moral dilemmas over the last decade.
Putting this story together, we decided there were three main dilemmas they’ve faced, and while most people probably would support two out of three of their decisions, one would really spark some debate:
• Would you harvest the bone marrow of your two-year-old son to donate to your four-year-old son to save him from a fatal disease?
• After seeing the ravages of that disease, and knowing that if you had another son, he would be a 50% chance of having that same disease, would you still press ahead with having a fifth child?
• Would you then use IVF to genetically engineer a sixth child, to save the life of your terminally ill fifth child?
While it’s tough to put a two-year-old through the painful process of having bone marrow extracted from their hip, I think most parents would press ahead consoled by the knowledge the procedure would save a life.
And similarly, if the only way to save your fifth child’s life is to create a sixth child, then so be it – whatever it takes to save a life.
But I think what a lot of people will question is why the Densleys would ever entertain the idea of having that fifth child in the first place, given it was effectively a roll of the dice in terms of whether that baby would be born with a terminal disease.
My initial thought when I heard about this story was “surely four kids is enough, especially when you know it’s effectively playing Russian Roulette with number five’s life”.
But when you visit the Densley’s modest house (which doubles as a shrine to their children), you begin to appreciate that for them, it was worth the risk.
They didn’t know what baby number five would have in store for them, and so given it could be yet another beautiful bundle of joy, they were willing to give it a shot.
Just like my parents did – they didn’t really know what pressures and problems having a fifth child would’ve put on them and the rest of the family, but they loved all of their kids so much that adding another could only be a good thing, right?
And so if my parents hadn’t taken that risk, then I wouldn’t have spent this year with the Densleys, riding the highs and lows of this remarkable and no doubt controversial rollercoaster they’re on.
And who’s to say that at the end of it all, when hopefully this next bone marrow transplant takes place from baby number six to save baby number five, the risk won’t have been worth it for them as well.
To watch ‘Gamble of Life’ in full, and for more of 60 Minutes, head to: https://www.9now.com.au/60-minutes/2018/extras