HARLES Minutelli, 7, is looking forward to a trip to Taronga Zoo where he hopes to see a kangaroo. But unlike other international visitors, he and his family are not on the tourist trail.
Diagnosed with spinal cancer in April, the young Noumean is among the 15 per cent of overseas patients who are treated at The Children's Hospital, Westmead.
An agreement with the French government allows children with chronic conditions — including cardiac and neurosurgery patients and children with cancer — to be treated at the hospital or a similar institution in France when paediatricians in Noumea do not have the resources to treat the condition.
Mrs Minutelli was full of praise for the hospital's doctors and staff.
"We're really, really happy to be here because . . . all the staff are hearing us, they explain what we have to know about the risk, about the time, about the consequences. Charles had a lot of pain, and here his pain is managed. We appreciate that a lot."
Paediatrician Emma McCahon is from the patient flow unit at the hospital.
She said the short flight time — 2½ hours instead of about 24 to France — meant it made more sense for families needing treatment to come to Sydney, but said it could be a difficult time for them.
"Usually for their child to come here they have a chronic condition, so they are very unwell," she said.
"Add a new country to the equation with a different language, different weather and away from social supports. That has a huge impact on families."
Charles lives with his parents and older brother Joseph in a unit near the hospital, where he receives chemotherapy each week. They will stay there for 12 months.
"The difficulties are not the same because I'm not alone with Charles like other mothers," Mrs Minutelli said.
"We prefer to stay together and enjoy the moments when he is not in hospital.
"The doctors and the interpreters answer all our questions, even the simple . . . worries. There is always someone to answer us and they are very good, very gentle. They explain even when the interpreter isn't here . . . everything is done to reassure us."