Archie’s Story

The Greaves family from Matamata enjoy spending time at the beach, on bush walks and with loved ones. For them, family is everything. Early last year when complications with mum Jemma’s third pregnancy arose, they experienced first-hand how Ronald McDonald House® can quickly become a family’s ‘home-away-from-home’ and provides invaluable support to those with a child in hospital.

During their 20 week scan, it was picked up that something wasn’t quite right. Jemma, husband Matt and their two children Maddie (now 5) and Jack (now 2) were sent to Auckland for further scans. This was followed by a prognosis that their yet to be born baby wouldn’t survive pregnancy or long after birth. Jemma travelled to Auckland for scans every 4-5 weeks, stopping her work as a paediatric chiropractor.

The Greaves eventually relocated to Auckland and their wee boy Archie was born at the National Children’s Hospital shortly after. Archie had congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which meant his stomach, liver, intestines had all gone into his chest and his heart and lungs didn’t develop properly. He needed surgery soon after birth to move everything down, so the lungs and heart could grow.

Knowing Auckland was one of the most expensive places to live, Jemma remembers accommodation being something she was most worried about when told they needed relocate. “Being away from home and far from family support, it took a lot of pressure off us when we were told we could stay at Ronald McDonald House. It meant the kids could come up to stay with us and we wouldn’t be completely separated for an unknown amount of time”.

This provided a level of normality for Maddie and Jack too. After a day at the hospital Jemma was able to come back at night, see them and give them a cuddle. They also made friends with some of the House staff. Jemma says “When Maddie comes up she’ll be like ‘I’m just going to go and talk to my friends at reception’ … they just loved going in and telling them what they’ve been doing and what Archie was doing.”

The Greaves remained at Ronald McDonald House until February this year during which time Archie had two major surgeries on his abdomen and heart. Jemma expressed how invaluable it was having RMHC New Zealand allow families with a child in hospital stay together so close to the hospital, allowing both her and Matt to be there for Archie. It meant she was able to race into the hospital at any time of the night when they got a phone call. The House was also an escape from the wards for Archie when he was well enough while still having the safety net of the hospital nearby.

When asked to reflect how their life could have looked without RMHC New Zealand Jemma says it was vital. They would have either had to sell their house and find somewhere in Auckland to live together or be separated as a family. She remembers “some of the moments there we didn’t know if he was going to make it, so being there by myself would’ve been hard. I don’t think we would’ve coped”.

Archie is still on his medical journey and is doing well. He has an oxygen and feeding tube. As his lungs grow, it will take the pressure off his heart and hopefully mean he can come off the oxygen and start to develop normally.

The family still faces challenges, however, when reflecting on how far Archie has come they hope for an easier journey ahead.

To supporters of RMHC New Zealand, Jemma says “Thank you so much, you will never realise until you are staying or have a family member staying with RMHC New Zealand how much this means, how much you’re helping and making such a difference in people’s lives. We’re all extremely grateful, you’re all a big part in helping Archie to be where he is today.”