JESSICA Rothwell made the decision to withdraw her daughter Mollyjane from her beloved year four class more than a month ago. There was no time to waste.
Mrs Rothwell said Mollyjane or MJ, 10, is one of two children known to be living in Australia with the rare and life-threatening genetic disease Carnitine-Acylcarnitine Translocase Deficiency, or CACT.
Her body can't break down fats.
MJ has spent more than 400 days in hospital and been to the operating theatre around 50 times.
"We're pretty pedantic about making sure we keep her healthy and alive," Mrs Rothwell said.
April 15 marks the mother and daughter's 33rd day in isolation.
When they started in mid March, the government had only just introduced the concept of social distancing by 1.5 metres in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the current restrictions had not yet been introduced.
"We started isolation two and a half weeks before everyone else," Mrs Rothwell said.
"We stopped going to school. If she caught it it could take her life due to complications with the disease."
Mrs Rothwell's husband and MJ's stepfather, Jonathan Rothwell, is an anaesthetist working at John Hunter Hospital.
"We decided 'Let's just do it'," he said.
"It's just so unknown, so we're playing it really safe."
While MJ may not be able to attend her classroom, she's helped her mother work on a unique canvas: their garage door.
The Rothwells are one of several Hunter families using signs and decorations to spread positivity from home.
They covered their Adamstown garage door about three weeks ago with uplifting images, as well as the message 'Sending love, strength, courage and hope. We are all in this together. Stay safe xxx'.
Rows of smaller signs thank Australian defence force workers, healthcare workers, doctors and nurses, hospital staff and cleaners, teachers and childcare workers, supermarket workers, emergency services, garbage truck drivers, couriers and postmen and essential retail staff.
One sign reminds readers to support local businesses and others make references to hugs.
"I'm a huge hugger," Mrs Rothwell said.
"I want to hug everyone, but I'm not allowed to.
"I think of elderly people who don't know anyone to hug, that this is how they feel all the time."
Rainbow-coloured lanterns and balloons fill the second floor balcony.
Boxes of free sparklers are offered next to the letterbox.
Mrs Rothwell said the decorations serve two purposes; to make people smile - and as a warm welcome home to Dr Rothwell after work.
"It's really nice to see and hear people talk when they walk past," Mrs Rothwell said.
"People sit across the road and have lunch, come and take photos and selfies, say to each other 'That's the house I've been talking about'."
MJ relishes overhearing several "people say 'Wow, this house is amazing'."
Mrs Rothwell said she was driven by a desire to help others.
The family spent last week compiling Easter hampers to raffle and raised more than $4000 for Rafiki Mwema, an organisation that helps Kenyan children who have experienced abuse.
"I know what it's like to live in trauma for a long time and feel alone - and I don't want other people to feel that," she said.
"I've also been lucky I've been so supported in my life with MJ and it's nice to give back.
"I want people to know we are all in this together, it doesn't matter who we are.
"If we can brighten up someone's day that's great. It's nice to let people know we're thinking of them.
"I know COVID 19 is scary - but it's not that scary if we stay at home."
Edgeworth Heights Public School teacher Sam Russell is displaying two home-made signs outside his Cooks Hill share house.
One reads 'Be kind wherever possible', the other 'If you want to be happy... be'.
"The kids inspired me to do it," he said.
"They were doing rainbows on their footpaths and whatnot, little signs, writing letters to the elderly.
"I thought 'We shouldn't just leave it to the kids to come up with great ideas'.
"We get a lot of foot traffic with workers in the city and thought it would be nice for them to see something... particularly health professionals and people working for the public.
"It's to remind people that even in the hardest times you can still be happy and kind."
He is also investigating setting up a street library of books to borrow, plus a stick library for dogs.
"There's a lot you can do if you think creatively," he said.
"I really encourage everyone to promote a sense of community."
Together, not Alone is a partnership between Out of the Square, the Newcastle Herald and the Greater Bank. Its aim is to inspire some positivity in these difficult times and will feature a series of stories that explore kindness, innovation, creativity, celebration and mindfulness among businesses and the community.
Contact Penelope Green: email@example.com
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