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A Warm Welcome

Ronald McDonald Family Room is a sanctuary for families at Christchurch Hospital (Waipapa)

Kristine Isurda lives in Christchurch with her family: husband Abner and daughters Nieve Zabbriah (4) and Amberleigh Rich (8 months). Kristine and Abner are both from the Philippines, but their story began in New Zealand; they were married and had both their children here.

Kristine was 19 weeks pregnant with Amberleigh when she received the news that the baby’s kidney was dilated with low function. Kristine needed to have bi-weekly scans in the hospital, and then 2 weeks before her due date her amniotic fluid reduced dangerously so she was induced.

“I wanted to have a natural birth but after 48 hours in labour I was only 3cm dilated,” Kristine explains. The baby was under stress, so Kristine was given an emergency c-section and baby Amberleigh was finally here.

Only 24 hours later however, Amberleigh needed to be put in the NICU at Christchurch Hospital. “She was very mucousy and kept vomiting” says Kristine “On her second day she was vomiting black fluid. She was very distressed”. Doctors discovered Amberleigh’s intestines were twisted and so she underwent surgery to properly align them on only her second day in the world.

Amberleigh then spent over a month in the NICU being monitored. Kristine remembers it as a challenging time for their family. “I would be at the hospital all day and have to pump milk to bring in with me every morning, and I wouldn’t leave until 10pm. Abner works full time and he had to pick up Nieve from preschool, cook all our meals and transport me to and from hospital” she says, “We have no family here in New Zealand, so it’s really hard”.

The family were finally able to take Amberleigh home but after only 2 nights they found themselves back in hospital: Amberleigh was often unwell, and it turned out she had blocked kidney tubes. Just before Christmas in 2021 she had her second surgery at the tender age of 6 months. Amberleigh still has quite high blood pressure and creatinine levels in her kidneys, and so is being closely monitored until both are stable. There is a chance the family will travel to Auckland soon to stay in Starship Hospital, where there is a large Renal team.

During her time in Waipapa (Christchurch Hospital), Kristine has made a lot of use of the Ronald McDonald Family Room. The staff at the Family Room have made Kristine feel very welcome and she says, “Rachel and Anastasia are so cheerful and kind, they accommodate anything you need – such as letting me do my laundry and always offering food”. Four-year-old Nieve Zabbriah has loved utilising the play area with all of the toys, watching the TV and enjoying the space that they say “feels like home”.

“It’s so nice to have a break from the hospital environment and we always feel so welcome at the Family Room,” Kristine says, “it’s nice for us to still be together as a family, even though it’s tough not being at home”.

“I am so appreciative to the team at the Family Room – their kindness means so much at a difficult time for our family”.

The Ronald McDonald Family Room, Christchurch Hospital is a welcoming, home-like space for families just steps away from their child undergoing medical treatment in the Waipapa facility at Christchurch Hospital. The Room is open daily and provides families a place to take a break from the stress of the hospital environment where they can relax, recharge, have a snack or a refreshing drink, enjoy a meal, or even sleep overnight, and spend time together in comfortable surrounds so they can be strong for their child. Families utilising this service need to be fully Covid-19 vaccinated with passports available.


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