When Hamilton parents Estelle and Nathan Dixon’s little girl was born in June last year, they never envisaged their first Christmas with her would be spent at the hospital in Auckland. Poppy was just 11 weeks old when mum Estelle noticed something wasn’t right. Poppy’s heart had been beating very hard and soon after, she started vomiting. Worried, Estelle immediately took her to Waikato Hospital.
It was found that Poppy’s heart had swelled up and stopped working. Doctors said she was fighting for her life and would need to be sent to Auckland for urgent specialist treatment. Still in complete shock and unable to take anything else in, Estelle accompanied her baby daughter on an emergency flight to Auckland.
This was the abrupt beginning to the Dixon family’s strenuous nine-month journey in Auckland. Their whole life had been uprooted. On top of worrying about Poppy, Estelle and Nathan stressed about how long they would be in Auckland and what they would do about their two older children Lily-Rose (then 4) and Jack (2).
They were amazed to find out Ronald McDonald House had a room prepared for their whole family just moments away from Poppy in hospital. “It was a huge burden off us. When you get given such shocking news, the last thing you want to think about is where you are going to find the money to put yourself in a hotel,” remembers Estelle.
Home cooked meals, comfy lounges, and playgrounds for the children gave the family normality at a time of stressful uncertainty. “Our baby girl was so sick, we weren’t sure she would survive. The House was there as a sanctuary away from all things clinical,” says Estelle.
The family’s favourite memories at the House were the Christmas celebrations. They were completely blown away by the generosity of volunteers and supporters. They loved the big Christmas dinner made by volunteers and all the presents for the children. “Every single patient and sibling in the House was catered for. It was more than I could’ve ever imagined for my kids,” says Estelle.
Estelle mentions that although it’s never how you want to spend Christmas, she was glad they were able to be around other families in similar situations. She said the atmosphere at the House kept people in high spirits. “Everyone was smiling, everyone was happy. It was magical,” says Estelle.
The family is now back in Hamilton and Estelle says Poppy has been thriving. Although a difficult nine months in Auckland, they are grateful for the House and the lifelong friendships they made there.
“No one else can understand what you’ve been through, except people in the House, because they are living it, doing it, exactly the same. I don’t think I’ll ever lose those friendships,” says Estelle.