Families in Transition

Updated: Jan 13, 2019

~Michelle Saleeba


This year Army Art chose the theme Transition to focus the community’s understanding of the event and the reason for selecting our two beneficiaries.

Life transitions are something we all experience, whether it is becoming a parent, supporting a sick child or partner, relocating, or embarking upon a new career. The threads of our lives reweave themselves often in unimaginable and unexpected forms. By supporting our 2018 beneficiaries, Army Art hopes to offer encouragement to people experiencing difficult or unexpected life circumstances, while highlighting the importance of both seeking and accepting support when life gets tough.

This year we are supporting Tiny Sparks WA as our main community beneficiary and we shared some of their story in a previous post. Tiny Sparks positively support all families who need them from across WA, but we wanted to share two special stories of Tiny Sparks families from the WA Defence community.

Captain Brett Fowler, (3 BTY, 9 REGT RAA) joined the Army Reserves when he was 17. He says, “Army Reserves has played an important part in my life, provided lots of challenges and opened up a lot of doors for me for which I am forever grateful.” However, none of those challenges were as significant as the day his wife Lee-Ann returned home, 30 weeks pregnant with a look that Brett knew meant something wasn’t right. The expectant first time parents were immediately worried about their unborn first child and headed for the hospital.

“As an Officer in the Army Reserves and a Detective Sergeant for WA Police, I thought I was prepared for most challenges in life,” Brett said. “However, nothing can prepare you for the uncertainty and panic that surrounds premature birth. “

Lee-Ann was transferred to King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH), and two days after the initial panicked trip to Joondalup, trying to delay the birth as long as possible, their first son decided he was ready to come into the world. With baby James coming into the world at 30 weeks, the delivery room quickly began to fill with specialist doctors and nurses, delivering vital emergency care so his little lungs could function. Brett and Lee-Ann spent six weeks in hospital before getting the all clear to take their beautiful son home.

Brett says, “James’ premature birth has left a lasting impact on our family, with small issues popping up every now and again.”

With an incredible reframing from stress to optimism Brett and Lee-Ann view James’ early birth as having given them an extra ten weeks getting to know their son. We were thrilled to hear from Brett that James is doing really well, “He is a happy and healthy two year old who loves playing outdoors.”


Newborn James Fowler in the NICU


Baby James Fowler with Dad’s slouch hat


Brett Fowler with his son James

Justin Martin also joined the Australian Army when he was 17, straight out of school and into the Gap year program. After serving full-time as a rifleman for a year, he transferred to the Army Reserve where he currently works as a medic with 7th Health Company, 13 CSSB.

In his civilian life Justin has been a firefighter with Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) for the past 5 years.

Justin and his wife Grecian had their first daughter Adelyn, in 2015. Though delivered by an urgent c-section she was perfectly healthy. At the time the Martin’s thought that was a stressful birth!

A little while later, and to Justin and Grecian’s delight and surprise they found that their second pregnancy was twins. Everything ran smoothly until the 16week scan where their obstetrician found a growth discordance. At this point the family were transferred to the KEMH gold team for weekly, then twice weekly scans from 22weeks. Medical staff informed the expectant parents that their twin girls would be early, if they both arrived at all. Twin girls, Hanna and Riley, were delivered at 25 weeks and 6 days by elective c-section. Justin says, “To wait any longer would have likely led to the loss of one of the twins.”

Justin recounts the stress of his girls birth, “The theatre was a hive of activity with two teams of pediatricians, surgery team and all the helpers, I believe there was close to 20 personnel working in there. Hanna was born at 930 grams and Riley at almost half the weight, 515 grams. “

He says, “It's an unbelievably confronting sight to see your children in such a frail state. It was a constant struggle to maintain composure for the sake of my family, when really I was just as frightened as they were.”

Having faced a number of life threatening obstacles in their short lives Hanna and Riley are both progressing well. Justin and Grecian were able to take Hanna home after 15 weeks in the NICU and while Riley is still receiving care in hospital, Justin says, “she is putting on weight and looking really healthy.”

Proud Dad Justin says of his girls, “I have no doubt the girls prematurity will present challenges down the track, but seeing what these two have been able to overcome in their short lives fills me with pride. I’m sure they will tackle any problems head-on, there will be no stopping these two now.”

Update: We are really happy to hear from Tiny Sparks that both Riley and Hanna are now home with Mum and Dad, and wish the Martin family the very best for the future.


Martin Family one of the twins in the NICU


Hanna and Riley Martin


Justin Martin holding his twins for the first time

Help us to support this amazing not for profit and the families who need them by attending our Opening Night on Friday 24th August. Tickets are available here

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The generosity of our sponsors is essential to this event being able to directly support not for profit organisations that help current or former defence personnel and their families.

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