BRAVE FACE: Damien Holt with his three-year-old daughter, Gemma, in his hospital bed in Brisbane.
BRAVE FACE: Damien Holt with his three-year-old daughter, Gemma, in his hospital bed in Brisbane. Contributed

Coast man tells how he was 'saved by mouth ulcer'

YOU pick up the phone. The voice on the other end tells you that you have leukemia and that you have to get to a hospital immediately or you could die.

That is the call which Sunshine Coast man Damien Holt received two weeks ago.

His world, and that of his loved ones, was thrown from its equilibrium so violently and so suddenly that it is hard to imagine things ever being the same.

Mr Holt is in a Brisbane hospital battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia after a diagnosis so strange and dramatic, it seems the stuff of fiction.

It started with the Coast businessman visiting a chemist, seeking relief from what he thought were mouth ulcers.

He asked to be prescribed a mouth wash or a similar treatment, but was instead instructed to visit his GP, where he underwent a series of blood tests.

The next day, he received a phone call from his pathologist.

He was told he had leukemia and had to get to a hospital immediately.

He and his wife Pamela Rose-Holt dropped their four children off with neighbours and drove straight to a Brisbane hospital.

There, they were met by doctors and an oncologist and Mr Holt received his first round of treatment in the form of chemotherapy and IV medications, just five hours after the fateful phone call.

The shock diagnosis has turned the Sippy Downs family's world upside-down.

Pamela and their children Levi, 19 months, Gemma, 3, and Toby, 15, have moved into a two-bedroom unit at Leukemia Village, to be near Damien while he undergoes treatment.

The couple's eldest son, Nathan, has temporarily moved to Toowoomba to stay with his aunt and grandmother.

"All I could think is, 'He's my best friend, we've got four children'," Mrs Rose-Holt said of the moment she learnt of her husband's diagnosis.

"The last two weeks have been a blur. It's only now that I can really think.

"Our whole life has changed. Two of our kids have had to change daycare. Our older boys have had to change high schools.

"We've had to move into Leukemia Village. Our business will have to close. At this stage, we're unsure if it will open again."

Pamela said Damien was doing the best he could and was in good spirits.

"He's cracking jokes with the nurses and handling it like any good Aussie bloke would," she said.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients have a survival rate of 30-40%.

The average treatment time is 26 months and Mr Holt faces six consecutive rounds of chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant.

Pamela said her husband owed his life to the staff at Chemist Warehouse at Forest Glen.

The margins are so thin that, had he not sought out his GP and the GP not decided to do a blood test, he could be on his death bed today.

Pamela said her husband's experience had also changed her outlook on people who donated blood.

"If I could urge everyone to donate blood," she said.

"He's already had donations from 20 people.

"And that's just in the first few weeks. This could go on for well over a year. Donating blood and bone marrow - it literally does save lives."

WITH Damien Holt in hospital and the family moving to Brisbane, they have been forced to close their child restraint-fitting business Attention To Detail.

Faced with mounting hospital bills and day-to-day living expenses, the family's friends have pitched in to lend a helping hand.

They have established an online fundraising drive to help them keep their heads above water.

Anyone wishing to donate to the family can do so by visiting and searching for Damien Holt's recovery from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

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