One-year-old Imogen Holden from Invercargill is the essence of a happy baby – always smiling and constantly making others do the same. To look at her, you wouldn’t think that she has faced a myriad of medical challenges in her short life, but this strong wee girl not only has holes in her heart and calcium in her kidneys, she is recovering from leukaemia.
Mum Jacqui and Dad Jason knew before Imogen was born that she would have a few challenges to overcome – they found the first hole in her heart after Jacqui had a scan when she was five months pregnant. “We were prepared for that,” says Jacqui. “But we weren’t prepared for what happened when she was born. She was having trouble breathing and the first time I got to see her she was covered in tubes and had to be airlifted to Dunedin Hospital.”
That was the first of many trips to hospital; one of the more serious ones followed Imogen collapsing in Jacqui’s arms when she was three-and-half months old. “We found out then she had multiple holes in her heart and was using all her energy just to breathe,” says Jacqui. “She was in severe heart failure and the Starship rescue plane had to get her to Auckland so she could have surgery.”
Imogen recovered well after the holes in her heart were ‘patched up’, Jacqui says. But in August of last year some irregular blood results confirmed that she had leukaemia, and so Imogen and Jacqui moved to Christchurch to start treatment.
“It was a pretty big blow to find out she had leukaemia ,” says Jacqui. “But we knew she’d be ok because whatever has come her way so far she’s just taken it all in her stride.”
And Jacqui thinks she knows why, there have been constants in Imogen’s life so far that have helped her and her family –their strong family bond and Ronald McDonald House South Island.
“Imogen has four siblings, Shian, Jayden, Taylor and Zia, and they all adore her. One of the hardest things we faced was being away from the other kids for so long while Imogen battled the leukaemia,” says Jacqui.
“But that is where the House came in. Because we are so close, it was amazing to have a place where the whole family could be together during times like school holidays and Christmas.
“Having a solid home away from home was hugely beneficial to Imogen’s recovery, and those times when we were all together at the House made a huge difference too.”
Imogen and Jacqui went home in February after a seven month stay in Christchurch and the whole family is happy they are back together. And while Imogen still has a few ongoing medical hurdles to face, Jacqui knows she’ll overcome them just like she has done everything else so far. “She’s has such an amazing attitude. We know whatever challenge she comes up against, she’ll just face it head on with a smile on her face!”