When Jimmy Pozarik feels the urge to cry he has to wait until the kids aren’t watching.
Mr Pozarik, who has been taking photographs of ill children at Sydney Children’s Hospitals for seven years, said: “I cry all the time but not in public. It’s usually with another worker.
“I never anticipated the emotional impact this would have on me.”
Now the former Time magazine photojournalist, who has been a volunteer at the hospitals since 2000, is launching an exhibition of this work.
The parents of the children consented to having Mr Pozarik take photos during the often stressful and unsettling experience of being in hospital with their children as they underwent the likes of amputations, cancer treatments and horrifying diagnoses.
“I’ve seen some things no one should see and heard things that no person should hear,” he said.
“When you start knowing the families, you get close to them and they trust you. You can see that in the photos.
“As a person, this job has changed me profoundly, as a photojournalist, you’re trained to not get emotional.
“Still, I would fight back tears every time I do one of these shoots.”
The exhibition Then And Now features the stories of 25 young patients which Mr Pozarik hopes will give people a greater understanding of the hospitals’ work.
THE BRAVE KIDS
Lizzie, diagnosed with the genetic disorder 1P36 deletion syndrome, was photographed when she was nine months old during a fitting in the hospital’s Helmet Clinic.
Her mother Georgina has mixed emotions looking at the image now of her daughter: “Lizzie used to have seizures and the medication made her sleep more which gave her a flat head.
“We were told she may never walk, talk or be able to do many things other typically developed children can do. We were shell-shocked.”
Between physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and sleep studies, Georgina and her husband were juggling work and taking care of their eldest son.
“Lizzie is now seven and I’m amazed at how far she has come,” Georgina said.
“Lizzie is managing at school and knows how to walk and write. We’re lucky she’s such a happy and smiley child.”
Alper, 4, was diagnosed with appendicitis in 2012. His mum Isabel moved from the UK with her two other children and husband.
“Those 10 days were extremely hard,” she said.
“I didn’t have many friends. Then Jimmy came along. After taking the photo he gave me this hug that meant the world to me.”
Alper, now 11, now enjoys the best things in life, from studying at school to playing soccer.
In 2015, five-year-old Hassan was admitted to Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick for surgery after a diagnosis of vacterl association.
Mum Fatima said: “At the time of the original photo, Hassan was having a test to determine why he was waking up with croup and experiencing breathing difficulties on a regular basis. I remember this photo as being enjoyable because Jimmy worked really well with him.
“The bubbles were an amazing idea that really encouraged Hassan to embrace the moment.”
Due to Hassan’s medical needs, most of his parents’ time was dedicated to looking after him as life can be unpredictable.
“Hassan’s health improves at times but, it can also rapidly and unexpectedly deteriorate,” Fatima said. “We take each day as it comes.”
Hassan, now eight, has begun the next chapter of his life and is in year three at school, where he strives to achieve the best for himself.
“He wants to be a clown doctor when he grows up,” she said. “His passion gets stronger every time we visit the hospital and they visit us.”
Emilia suffered an injury in utero while mum Sharon was pregnant.
“Emilia was born with severe ischemic damage to her left arm as a result of an internal haemorrhage,” Sharon said.
“She had clots in many other organs too. My husband and I felt helpless.”
Within minutes of birth, Emilia underwent vascular surgery and was taken to Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick.
Since then Emilia, now six, has gone from strength to strength and is a role model to her peers. Sharon said: “Emilia makes people laugh and has a compassionate nature.”
At six weeks old Cooper contracted myocarditis, a heart muscle inflammation.
Mum Jess said: “Cooper was horribly sick but somehow he managed to open up his big blue eyes, smile and reassure us.” Now Cooper is two years old and thriving.
Eve was nine when doctor’s told her mum Rebecca she needed surgery for cancer in her leg.
“I don’t think Eve understood what cancer was,” Rebecca said.
“But she knew all these people were going to make her leg better. When I look at her now I see a happy 12-year-old with exciting things in her future.”