The Noakes family, Matiu, Naomi, Noah and Lilly, are from the Motueka Valley in the top of the South Island. They love the outdoors and spend their free time fishing and hunting as a family in Tasman Bay, the Marlborough Sounds and Nelson Lakes National Park.
Son Noah was born with a thumb that was missing muscles and tendons, which meant he had no use of it. He would pick up smaller things using his forefinger and middle finger, but had no way of holding a tennis ball, or crucially, a fishing rod! Matiu and Naomi were assured that corrective surgery would enable him to use it as an opposing digit, but they were initially reluctant to go ahead as there are always risks with surgery and they had some doubts. Fortunately the surgeon convinced them that although it was a complicated operation, he was highly confident that his thumb usage would dramatically improve, so they agreed.
Surgery was scheduled for early March 2014 and when the Noakes learned they could stay at Ronald McDonald House south island their first thought was ‘that’s one less thing to have to plan and worry about.’
They didn’t know much about the house, other than it was user friendly. Matiu says “as head of my home my family’s welfare and safety is paramount- I don’t do dodgy. So when we arrived at this flash building with security gates, and the friendliest receptionist I’d ever met who greeted us like family, I knew we were in the right place. Zucchi [House Manager] made us feel like we were guests of honour!
“Compared to other health crisis some families face, ours was very minimal but we were treated like we mattered which was very humbling,” Matiu adds.
Noah’s operation was not life threatening but it was still emotionally taxing and a big deal for the Noakes family. But for them the house was a sanctuary despite only needed to stay for a short while.
“We were surprised at how modern and organised it was. Everything was supplied, from complete bedding and towels, to a pantry and freezer stocked with food, and a laundry with washing powder. The indoor playground and outside playground was amazing,” says Matiu.
“Volunteers came in one of the nights and cooked a fabulous meal of roast chicken pieces and vegetables. In the dining room that night we saw and met many families. Everyone we met was very supportive and interested in our son and his operation, yet they all had children with more serious issues.
“We were only there for two nights, but will certainly always remember the experience with a great deal of appreciation. The kids still talk about the House and ask to go back. Noah’s thumb operation thus far is highly successful, and most importantly he can now hold a fishing rod!”