Rugby girl’s fans cheer her through health challenge

By Mark Squibb/August 12, 2022

Laura Winnett says her 10-year-old daughter Natalie is truly one-of-a-kind.

“She’s a real character,” said Laura. “Her first rugby lesson last year, she was really disappointed after the lesson, and I said, ‘Why Natalie?’ and she said, ‘Because I didn’t get to tackle anybody!’ And that is Natalie. She is such a personality, she’s got a smile on her face all the time, she’s just a real character.”

Natalie was diagnosed with Leukemia June 1.

“She had complained of leg pain, and I kept saying, ‘It’s growing pains,’ but she said, ‘No, mommy, it’s not,” said Laura. “So, we went to the hospital, and within four hours they were talking about the big C.”

Laura said her daughter was born with an underlining muscle condition, and the leukemia has caused her to lose weight and muscle tone, which has hindered her ability to walk. To go any distance, Natalie uses a wheelchair.

“To have this happen to her has been absolutely devastating,” said Laura. “And we’re only just starting to see Natalie again. She’s starting to become more of herself again, so that’s nice to see, because she’s been quite sick.”

And though she hasn’t been able to play rugby of late, Natalie has been able to see some of her rugby friends who came by earlier this summer to pay her a special visit.

Mom Laura had put out a plea on social media on a Wednesday night for help with building a ramp at their Topsail Pond home.

Thursday morning, members of the Baymen Rugby Club were at their front doorstep taking measurements.

“They provided the materials for the ramp, and had it built immediately,” said Laura. “And it’s built to code, they didn’t scrimp or anything like that, so we’re really, really touched by that. It’s just absolutely fantastic… Natalie got home on a pass from the hospital, and so she got to see that. And it was just overwhelming, the support that we got from them.”

Laura is a teacher at Topsail Elementary, which is also the school Natalie attends, and both are involved in the Girl Guides. A fellow Topsail Elementary teacher organized a blood drive at All Saints Anglican Parish CBS this Tuesday past.

The support from the community, said Laura, has been overwhelming.

“I don’t like to ask to help,” said Laura. “I can be a very strong and stubborn person, and people who know me will laugh and say, ‘Yup, that’s Laura.’ So, to ask for help is very humbling, but then to get it in such an outpouring has been humbling, it’s been fantastic, and overwhelming. We’re just so thankful to be a part of such an amazing community of people.”

Laura says her daughter Natalie is a funky and stubborn, 10-year-old — the complete opposite of her 13-year-old, equally awesome, daughter Kate.

Donating blood, said Laura, is the best way folks in the community can help Natalie, and others like her.

“This has been two months we’ve been doing this for, and Natalie has had at least eight blood transfusions, whole blood as well as platelets,” said Laura. “So, giving blood is, I think, the most important thing people can do for us to support us, and to support others in this situation.”

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