We are Maria and Alex, and the bundle of joy you see here is our precious miracle, Oliver.
Oliver's journey into this world was nothing short of a miracle. He arrived prematurely, at 32 weeks, in May 2021, following a remarkably complex pregnancy. Little did we know that our path would lead us to an extended stay in the NICU. When Oliver was born, he required immediate breathing support due to a "trauma” at birth. At 8 weeks old, he was diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Disease (chILD), a rare children's lung condition, and became reliant on constant CPAP and oxygen support. Specialists struggled to provide us with clear answers and we found ourselves in a very isolating space with no-one to turn to.
Countless tests, including blood tests, extensive genetic analyses (trio-exome sequencing), sweat tests, CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, bronchoscopies, and a lung biopsy, offered no clear insights. His requirements were very high but he always seemed to be quite stable - but never getting better.
As Oliver grew and began to explore his surroundings, we realized he longed for a more engaging environment in the NICU. Unfortunately, due to his ventilator and CPAP requirements, he couldn't be move, roll or turn. Healthcare providers remarked that he was becoming more challenging than their typical cases but due to his requirements were not able to transfer him to PICU. We met with the allied health team, who offered some helpful suggestions on developmental activities. However, sourcing the necessary tools and equipment proved to be nearly impossible.
After five months on the CPAP ventilator, Oliver finally transitioned to High Flow, although he still had to go back and forth to the CPAP every few days but it was the biggest step forward. It was only after an astonishing 184 days (6 months) in the NICU that we received the tools and equipment necessary to care for Oliver as a "hospital in the home" patient.
The seed of an idea for Kounelakia was planted when Oliver was still in the hospital. As a first-time mum, I visited countless boutiques, baby stores, and baby expos where conversations came to a halt as soon as I mentioned that my baby was in the hospital. People often didn't know what to say or ask, leaving me feeling isolated and lonely. We were not eligible to join a mother's group, and I had to seek out online resources on my own. It became evident that change was desperately needed. As I spoke to more parents who shared similar feelings, I felt compelled to take action.
Kounelakia was envisioned to be easily accessible and close to hospitals for parents who might need last-minute items. A place where mother's groups could gather, and where every parent, regardless of their unique journey, could find comfort and familiarity. Our store is a safe haven.
We are thrilled to showcase a handpicked selection of over 80 family and woman-owned brands from across Australia. Each product we stock is chosen with care and pride. We aim to be a trailblazer in supporting families and family businesses in our industry.
We welcome you into our community with open arms, and we look forward to sharing this beautiful journey with you. Thank you for joining us on this incredible adventure.
We regularly share updates on Oliver's journey. Follow him on Instagram @theveryhungryoliver