Ronald McDonald House® sees its fair share of fantastic fathers. Matt London is definitely one of them. In February of this year, Matt, his partner Siobhan and their daughters were enjoying their new start in Hamilton when an unexpected phone call changed their course.
Their eldest daughter, Florence, had been diagnosed with leukaemia. In less than 24 hours, the family was on their way to Auckland for immediate treatment. Matt had little to no time to process the news and immediately went into survival mode, planning how he could look after his family. Luckily, thanks to you, Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®) New Zealand was there with a helping hand.
It had been one year since Matt and Siobhan decided to leave Auckland for a quieter scene in Hamilton, and the pair had settled on their first home. Amidst the delight of their new peaceful life, their four year old daughter Florence’s diagnosis came as a sudden shock.
Matt remembers being in the middle of settling Florence and her then six month old sister, Georgie, in bed when the phone rang. It was their family doctor, calling with the news that what Matt and Siobhan had initially thought was a stomach bug turned out to be more serious.
“She looked a bit washed out, then vomited and wouldn’t eat,” said Matt, recalling Florence’s initial symptoms, only one week before the doctor’s phone call. “After a week when she still wasn’t her usual sparkly self, we decided to take her to see a doctor, just to be safe.”
At the time of the appointment, neither the doctor nor the family had any inkling of what was yet to come.
On the news of Florence’s leukaemia, Matt and Siobhan bundled their daughters into the car the next day and set off. Of course thanks to you, once they arrived in Auckland, Ronald McDonald House was waiting for them.
“I knew I had to look after my family. I would have done whatever it took,” Matt said. “And, there’s more to our family than just Florence. I just knew I had to look after everyone.”
With a new mortgage on their plate, the idea of missing work and not being at home was unnerving. But, when Matt learned that staying at Ronald McDonald House was free, his worries were eased. As the London family toured the House on arrival, they were amazed that it offered so much more than just accommodation, let alone its close proximity to the wards.
“There were shared kitchens with fridges and cupboards that already had food. Everything that you could possibly need was there,” said Matt. “There were volunteers who cooked dinner a couple of nights a week too.”
Having food ready to grab and go can be particularly important to parents like Matt, who spend most of their time toing and froing between the House and hospital ward.
For the first three weeks, Matt spent every night on the ward with Florence so that Siobhan and Georgie could rest at the House. Matt couldn’t imagine what Siobhan would have gone through if he’d had to go back home to work.
“For us, family life is the most important thing. Thanks to the House, we didn’t have to experience not having it, especially during such a stressful time in our lives.”
Instead, Matt and Siobhan supported each other as parents, and worked together for their family.
Now Florence visits Auckland every week or fortnight for treatment, and Matt says he has seen the significant difference the House makes to children like Florence.
“She knows the routine, where things are and the familiar faces. When you’re a four-year-old who gets different nurses and doctors any given day of the week, having this normality is very important to her,” says Matt.
Any father will tell you that routine and familiarity can be the most beneficial thing for a child’s wellbeing.
Matt and Siobhan couldn’t be more grateful for the services that RMHC New Zealand provides thanks to our fantastic supporters.
“Thank you to everyone who donates to RMHC New Zealand, I’m not sure you realise how much your generosity means to families at a time when they need it the most.”