Haley McLaughlin had just three hours to pack up her family’s lives in Hamilton when their 3-year-old son Hamish was rushed to Starship Hospital.
What they thought would be a two-week hospital stay, turned in to six months.
Hamish is fighting a brave battle against a “one-of-a-kind” form of acute myeloid leukaemia.
McLaughlin and her son have called Ronald McDonald House home since, after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Because his form of cancer is so rare, the course of treatment is uncertain. Home now is between Starship’s oncology ward and Ronald McDonald House.
In June 2016, Hamish was admitted to Waikato Hospital with pneumonia. Blood tests showed abnormal blast cells, which doctors put down to infection.
After a month of weekly blood tests, a daycare worker spotted a lump on Hamish’s cheek, and the family were advised to head straight for Starship Hospital.
At first, they thought they’d be in the hospital for two weeks. They were still there six months later.
Hamish’s mother Haley said she didn’t know much about Ronald McDonald House before he got sick, and was blown away by the care and resources available to them there.
“If I need nappies, nappies just show up in our room,” she said.
Jobs, school and life have been put on hold so Hamish can be with his parents and older brother, Elliott.
The boys have a close connection, so having his brother there was one of the “best medicines” for Hamish, she said.
Elliott, 5, had not started at a real school, and Ronald McDonald House were able to provide that on-site.
Being at Ronald McDonald House has meant Hamish has had the full support of his family – his father Patrick and brother visit every weekend – and has helped Elliott to process Hamish’s illness.
“Hamish lights up when he sees his older brother like nothing else.”
The “little champ” has completed three rounds of chemotherapy and two bone marrow transplants.
It has been a rocky road, there were no perfect matches on the worldwide bone marrow register, so Hamish had to undergo a half-matched transplant donated by his dad.
The transplant, back in November, initially looked successful. The bone marrow grafted and his blood counts increased – Hamish and his family even got to go back home to the Waikato.
But in January, things took a turn for the worse – the graft had been lost. Hamish underwent a second transplant in April, and was welcomed back to Ronald McDonald house with “open arms.”
On Monday, Ronald McDonald House launch their May Appeal, (May 8 to 14) the biggest fundraising drive on their calendar.
For the McLaughlins, knowing the doors at Ronald McDonald House were open to them put them at ease.
Without the service, there was no way they would have been able to stay together as a family, she said.