The Skeggs are a typical family from Invercargill – Dad Blair is a builder and Lauren is a stay at home Mum to Kaden and Heidi. They love camping, boating and spending time with their family and friends but their life priorities changed in September 2013 when Heidi suffered a bout of pneumonia which resulted in one of her lungs collapsing.
A follow up visit to Southland Hospital in October was meant to show the pneumonia subsiding, but the Skeggs didn’t get the results they were hoping for. “The doctors and nurses were making lots of phone calls and doing lots of tests on Heidi. Basically we were told to go home and pack a bag as Heidi was very ill and we would be flying to Christchurch the next day,” says Lauren.
“When we were told by the staff in Invercargill about having to head to Christchurch our brains went into overdrive. How would we find the money to pay for flights? Who would we stay with? What are we going to do for a vehicle?”
But the Skeggs didn’t have time to consider the details – Heidi’s health was their main priority so they dropped typical life and moved into a life of parenting a seriously ill child.
“We arrived in Christchurch to a barrage of doctors and nurses. Heidi was hooked up to all sorts of machines and had tubes and wires all over her. In a nutshell, we were told she had a mass on her lung that she wouldn’t be able to move from her chest on her own and it required surgery to remove it.”
Reeling from the news, the Skeggs were told they were booked into Ronald McDonald House South Island – they say it ‘was a real relief’ to have somewhere to go knowing Heidi would have to have surgery the very next day.
Heidi’s surgery took three hours – they had to remove the mass (an empyema, or collection of pus) from the lower part of her left lung, and she also had a pneumothorax, meaning her chest was filling up with air and fluid which was not meant to be there. Lauren and Blair describe seeing her being anaesthetised and poked and prodded as ‘heartbreaking’, but she came through it well despite not feeling too great post op.
So began the road to recovery – Blair, Lauren and Kaden spent a week at Ronald McDonald House South Island while Heidi was gaining strength to get discharged and though it wasn’t a lengthy stay, they really connected with the House, volunteers and staff.
“To say we were surprised when we first walked through the door would be an understatement. It’s so much more than a bed to sleep in and a shower,” says Lauren.
“When you have children, you don’t expect them to get sick, especially seriously ill. It happens to ‘other people’ but in reality it can happen to anyone. Even though we only stayed for a short time, we will never forget the generosity and love shown to us by everyone. Just having all the stress associated with a sick child taken away so we could solely concentrate on her getting well, as well as being able to look after ourselves, and our son properly too, meant the world to us.”