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Teenage Tenacity

Jaffar finds his 'home-away-from-home'

“It was a Wednesday.”

Jaffar Nuru, 17, vividly remembers the February day he went for an MRI scan at Christchurch hospital, thinking he would be back home – on the farm outside Geraldine – in time for dinner.

Instead, on the Friday morning he underwent a thirteen-hour surgery to remove a brain tumour, and spent the next month recovering in hospital. Since then, Jaffar and his family have spent 139 nights (and counting) in our Christchurch House – a place Jaffar describes as a blessing and a second home.

Jaffar’s medical journey began after he lost hearing in one ear late last year and was booked for an MRI in six months’ time. A few weeks later, he lost control of his car and crashed into a creek on his way to athletics training – with no recollection of how it happened.

His mum, Swabaha says that’s when the slight concern about Jaffar’s health became scarily serious.

“From that moment, we knew something was really wrong,” Swabaha says.

“In some ways it was a miracle that the accident happened – it helped to push the MRI appointment closer, and made it an urgent matter.”

Raj, Jaffar’s dad, accompanied his son to the scan, and says he will never forget the moment they got the results.

“The neurosurgeon came in and told it to us straight – he said, ‘it’s not good news. Jaffar has a brain tumour, it’s growing, and we need to operate as soon as possible’,” Raj said.

“Jaffar was immediately admitted… we left Swabaha at home in the morning, and when I got back, I was alone.

“Breaking that news to her was so hard.”

With Jaffar in hospital, Nuru – Jaffar’s brother – at the University of Canterbury and Raj working on the farm, Swabaha had been spending long days at the hospital, and staying at a friend’s house.

“Nuru would pick me up in the morning and take me to the hospital, I would spend all day there, then he would return in the evening and take me back to my friend’s,” she says.

“They were long days, I didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Swabaha says a social worker told her about Ronald McDonald House, but she didn’t know what to expect and was nervous to try it out.

Once the long days became too much they decided to give Ronald McDonald House a go, Swabaha says she was blown away by the whole facility.

“I thought, wow. The people, the food, everyone coming together to sit and chat… You don’t feel like anything is missing here, we are so comfortable,” she says.

“I don’t even have words… It’s a second home and a blessing to be here.

“Ronald McDonald House will never leave our minds.”

Raj, who stays at the House two nights each week when he’s not working, agrees.


“It’s such a family environment, we feel completely at home here, it’s as simple as that. We feel at home.”

Jaffar says he finds comfort in meeting other families staying at the House and feeling a sense of solidarity.

“You meet other families, you talk and you think ‘I’m not alone’,” he says.

While Jaffar’s initial surgery removed most of his tumour, the remainder needed radiation for six weeks. On top of that, Jaffar had to complete four rounds of chemotherapy.

This brave and determined teen had his eyes on one prize: ringing the bell at Christchurch hospital’s child haematology and oncology ward, to indicate the end of his treatment.

Jaffar is now home with his family, and is looking forward to beginning his final year at High School in 2019.

Thank you to Etta Images for kindly donating a photoshoot of the Nuru family.


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