When Ruby Rose Hueston was just two years old, she lost her mother in horrific and tragic circumstances.
On November 9, 2009, cookbook author Chloe Heuston, 37, was stabbed to death by her mentally ill brother Anthony Waterlow during a family dinner at their house in Randwick, in Sydney’s east.
Chloe’s father, Nicholas Waterlow was also killed when Anthony, a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of violent behaviour, took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed his sister and father.
Ruby’s face was cut in the attack, which she witnessed alongside her older brother William, 4, and baby James, five months. The little girl was found kneeling by her mother’s side when police arrived.
Her father, Ben Heuston, was finishing a work assignment in London when he received the devastating news about his family, and he returned home to care for his three children and attempt to rebuild their life.
Now, six years later, Ruby and the Heuston family have been dealt another blow.
In November 2015, just shy of her 9th birthday, Ruby became unwell. She started vomiting and complained of headaches and tiredness. She also had bruises on her body.
Ben took her to hospital on a Thursday night, where she suffered a cerebral haemorrhage.
Doctors diagnosed the 8-year-old with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
It is the most common type of childhood cancer, but Ruby had an aggressive form of it, and Ben was told to bring the family in to say goodbye.
“She walked into hospital one night, and she woke up the next day and she was blind,” Ben told Mamamia in his first interview since Chloe’s death.
“And then she was basically going to die. So it was very, very close.”
For a period she was unable to move or talk, and doctors didn’t know what damage the haemmorage had caused.
Ruby survived, but she was left permanently blind. She spent 114 days in Sydney Children’s Hospital, including a month in intensive care, where she learnt to walk again.
Ruby’s leukaemia is treatable and prognosis is good, but her hospital days are far from over. She will be in and out of hospital until 2018, when her chemotherapy should be completed.
Ben works full time to support his family as a single father, and doctors say Ruby needs a full time occupational therapist to rehabilitate her for life without sight, and allow her to resume schooling, navigate the family home and do the everyday things she was previously capable of.
A fundraising page has been set up to pay for a permanent carer, and on Tuesday more than half of the $220,000 goal had been raised.
Ruby is making a slow recovery with the help of her brothers Will, 10, and James, 6, and Ben says his wife’s spirit lives on in their “beautiful young girl”, who loves being read Harry Potter books, singing to Taylor Swift, and dancing to Jesse J.
“Her warmth, her generosity, her giving nature is what you would find if you spoke to Ruby,” Ben said.
“Her latest goal is to run for Australia in the Paralympics.”