The Laurence Family - Waikato

Meet the Laurence's: a family of six living on a dairy farm in the Waikato. Mum Zoe and dad Scott have four children: Grace (eight), Ruby (six), Emmett (three) and 16-month-old Oliver. In March 2023, their world was turned upside down when Grace was diagnosed with leukaemia.

They spent one night at Waikato Hospital before being transferred to the National Children’s Hospital the following day. “Grace and Scott travelled up via ambulance, while I went home to pack and then came up to Auckland with baby Oliver,” Zoe recalls, “Oliver was only three months old at the time so he and I stayed at the Ronald McDonald Domain House while Scott stayed at the hospital at night times with Grace.”

The family stayed at the Domain House for almost one month after the initial diagnosis, while Grace had her treatment in Auckland. Ongoing, Grace is treated mostly as an outpatient but they need to travel up regularly for treatment – initially every week, and now closer to monthly. Each time, they stay at Ronald McDonald House near the hospital. As Zoe explains, “Grace has a 2.5 year treatment plan so there are plenty more stays at the House ahead of us! We are so grateful to have this facility as it would be so stressful and expensive having to find somewhere to stay each time otherwise.”

The family have stayed in many different rooms within Domain House, with everyone from Scott and Zoe to Grace’s siblings and Zoe’s mum coming along to help out. “Ronald McDonald House has been a huge support for our family,” Zoe says, “when Grace was first diagnosed, we were understandably experiencing shock and devastation; it was a huge relief to have the accommodation sorted for us so we didn’t have to think about too much else other than Grace.”

Zoe found the staff at the House to be extremely welcoming and helpful upon arrival, making sure the family had everything they needed. “It was such a relief to have a comfortable space that feels separate from the hospital environment, but is still super close so that we can get there quickly if needed,” Zoe says, “having the House room also meant that Scott had a place to take a break during the day after his night shifts at the hospital, and have a decent shower!”

When Grace was first discharged from hospital she was also able to stay at the House, making day trips to the hospital for treatment. Zoe explains, “she enjoyed exploring the place, helping us cook, and we went on walks to the Domain as it is so close by.” Zoe found the facilities great for the children including the outdoor playground, inside play spaces, the art space and pet therapy. “There always seems to be other special things on for different occasions,” she says, “we were at the house over Easter and were even provided with Easter eggs for the family.”

Zoe also loved the cook nights, where volunteers cooked for all of the families staying at the House. She states that it takes so much pressure off having to cook and is so nice to have delicious, nutritious food instead of living off basic microwaveable meals. “It creates a bit of a community feel too, having everyone sharing a meal in the dining area and knowing that you are not the only one going through a hard time.”

“Grace is still on treatment currently but it is a lot less intense this year, so we are only staying at Ronald McDonald House one night every month or two,” Zoe explains, “we absolutely love RMHC and are so grateful to be able to stay there when we need to.”