South coast WA sheep farmer and mother-of-three Kate Mitchell knew her son might be in danger after hearing the following six words.
“Mummy, mummy come look at Darcy,” her four-year-old son Harry had said.
At first, she thought her children were just being “ratbags”.
Perhaps they’d taken off all their clothes or scribbled on the wall, she thought to herself.
But what she found was far more gut-wrenching and every parent’s worst nightmare.
Her one-year-old son Darcy was lying on the floor. And he was blue.
Her usually bubbly young toddler was unresponsive and frothing at the mouth.
Ms Mitchell scooped him up and ran to her kitchen where she got her father-in-law Ross to call an ambulance.
She feared Darcy had choked on something and started back blows before starting CPR.
“At that point, it felt like an eternity, but the color started to come back to his cheeks — he was very, very blue,” Ms Mitchell told ABC.
They put Darcy in their ute and decided to try to meet the Mount Barker ambulance service along the way to save time.
A long way from help
The Mitchells live on a farm in Narrikup, about 50 kilometers north-west of Albany and 400km south-east of Perth.
The area is plagued with poor phone reception and Ms Mitchell remembers telling the triple-0 phone operator that she had not hung up on them and it was indeed just bad coverage.
They also copped a speeding fine on the way, but Ms Mitchell says it was later overturned.
She saw police officers on the drive and managed to use them to help flag down the ambulance.
“I had no shoes, I stunk like sheep yards, it was pretty rancid,” Ms Mitchell said.
When the ambulance arrived, Ms Mitchell recognized one of the paramedics as her husband’s former next-door neighbor.
“I knew that day that we had a guardian angel, it is tricky enough to hand your child over, but [luckily she] was there,” Ms Mitchell said.
Darcy was taken to hospital but was sent home a few days later without a diagnosis.
Two weeks later, it happened again.
The Mitchells put Darcy back into the ute, this time beating the ambulance, and headed to the hospital again.
There he had his worst and longest seizure yet.
“He was scared, his eyes were stuck and he was just screaming,” she said.
“We were beside ourselves but tried to keep it together.”
Darcy was flown to Perth for more specialized treatment.
He was diagnosed with childhood focal epilepsy — a brain condition that causes seizures.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, one in every 200 children has the disorder.
Ms Mitchell said following Darcy’s first seizure in February, Harry had described him as doing a “flippy, floppy fish dance”.
She said that was the first clue that maybe Darcy had an underlying health condition such as epilepsy.
There is no cure for the condition and the toddler now takes medication to help prevent seizures.
Although rare, epilepsy can be fatal.
Gift bags for other families
Ms Mitchell described her son as a “boisterous, little bubbly boy”.
She has even had to put a lock on the farm gate because Darcy liked to wander down to the sheep.
The mother-of-three wanted to do something to raise awareness about epilepsy and after being in and out of hospital with her son, she decided to create gift bags for families like theirs.
The gift bags contain items such as a toothbrush, soap and slippers for families who live rurally and cannot go home for supplies during unexpected hospital trips.
It was inspired by her experience of turning up to the hospital with no supplies — stinking of sheep — post farm work.
The bags also come with toys for the children, as many of the hospital’s toys were locked away due to COVID protocols.
The bags have been distributed across the country and Ms Mitchell has created a group called The Darcy Effect where people can donate items too.
She said it was all about giving back and helping those in need.