In early 2014, Hazel and Andrew Sim from Napier welcomed Carter into the world. Little did they know the massive journey that this little bundle of joy was about to take them on.
Carter was just eight weeks old when the Sim family made their first trip to Ronald McDonald House® in Auckland. Carter had been unwell for weeks and doctors decided that he needed specialist tests.
Hazel and Andrew arrived at Ronald McDonald House after a huge day on the hospital ward where Carter had undergone test after test. Mentally drained and sleep deprived, Hazel says they were confused about what had just happened. They were also stressed about their two girls back in Napier, needing to take time off work, bills and expenses. Most of all, they were worried sick about Carter.
“As soon as we stepped through those doors at Ronald McDonald House we instantly felt some sort of relief,” says Hazel. Overwhelmed by the support, they instantly worried how they would afford this accommodation while paying their mortgage and bills.
All of their worries quickly disappeared. They were reassured by staff there was never any expectation of payment. “It was so heartwarming. Andrew and I could not believe it. We were so humbled to know that donations from people all over the country were the reason we had somewhere to stay whilst we cared for our little man,” says Hazel.
During that first trip, Carter was diagnosed with Alagille syndrome. A rare condition that affects his heart, liver, lungs and kidneys. As they needed many trips to Auckland for treatment, Ronald McDonald House has quickly become their second home.
Just a year after diagnosis, Carter went into liver failure and needed a transplant. When a liver become available, the family immediately packed up the car and rushed to Auckland. Driving through snow, they just made it through the Napier-Taupo road before it closed.
While Carter went straight into surgery, Hazel and Andrew waited in the Ronald McDonald Family Room® inside the hospital.
That day the family was shown to a Ronald McDonald House apartment for transplant patients that they would call home for the next 4 months. “The transplant room was incredible. It was like our own apartment with everything we needed,” says Hazel. The apartments accommodate patients like Carter, with a compromised immune system who cannot be in contact with people. This room became the Sim family’s sanctuary.
Eight hours after Carter went into surgery, he was finally stable in pediatric intensive care. While Carter recovered, Andrew and Hazel spent their nights getting some sleep in their room, preparing themselves for when Carter could join them. That week marked the first time Hazel slept through the night since Carter was born.
Whenever Carter moved into the House Hazel saw an instant change and a step in the right direction. Carter reached at lot of milestones there. He started walking, talking, eating and made friends for the first time. The House was his home and where he felt safe.
After a year of amazing results Carter’s transplant gave him the chance to be a little boy. “We were so blessed, so grateful for a healthy happy boy,” says Hazel.
Unfortunately that was not to last. In April 2017 Carter was flown back to Auckland with a tumour in his kidney. During this stressful time, the Sim’s found solace in returning to Ronald McDonald House and reconnecting with friends made during their stay.
After months of chemo and radiation, this little superhero is now on six monthly monitoring, and the family continue to stay at the House whenever he needs check-ups in Auckland. On arrival, he jumps out of the taxi and runs to see his friends at reception. Altogether, the family have spent 195 nights at the House so far. Hazel says “[The House] was our lifeline to normality, a massive reason we were able to hold on to each other and help Carter get through anything that was thrown at him.”