Just over 10 years ago in January 2006, our son named Brandon was hit with the most devastating news that we could imagine, that he had Leukaemia - Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) when he was only 8 years old.
It all started about the last week of December 2005, when one night I could hear him in his room and his breathing didn’t sound right. Brandon had always been a healthy child, and he had only been to the doctors for his immunisations. I knew something was wrong, so I rang an ambulance. We were taken up the hospital where all his vitals were checked and they gave him some Ventolin and we then headed home. For the next week, we were at the hospital going to different doctors and they all had something different to say like; asthma, croup etc., call it a mother’s intuition but I knew it was something more. Finally, he was given a chest X-ray and within 20 minutes we received a call telling us to go to Wagga straight away as he needed a scan done, it sounded serious so we left straight away. Wagga Hospital was an hour’s drive from where we live in Cootamundra.
Upon our arrival, he was admitted to the children’s ward immediately, where they kept him under observation and the next morning he was taken to have his scan. It revealed that Brandon had a mass on his chest which was the cause of his breathing difficulties. That afternoon he was flown to Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick and admitted into ICU, his father flew up with him (only one parent could go on the plane). I came home and organised for my sister to mind my other two children who were only 3 and 7 years old at the time. They didn’t know what was going on; only that Mummy and Daddy had to go away because Brandon was sick. Meanwhile, I packed us a few things and then caught the train up to Sydney (over four and a half hours away).
It was all happening so fast and over the next few days he had a lot of tests done and they started him on steroids to shrink the mass on his chest. He had a bone marrow test which showed leukaemia cells – and then Brandon was diagnosed with ALL.
It was our worst nightmare ever and we knew our son had a hard fight ahead of him. We spent 10 months at Ronald McDonald House Randwick and Sydney Children's Hospital, whilst Brandon received his chemotherapy and radiation. There were so many hard and stressful days that we went through, especially when he was only about six weeks into his treatment (if that), and he was rushed back into ICU. His body had blown up with fluids, he was not going to the bathroom properly, he was hallucinating, and the doctors couldn’t believe what was happening to his body. He wasn’t getting rid of all those horrible toxins that were going through his system. The decision was made to place Brandon into a coma to let his body rest. It was the hardest thing we experienced; we could touch him, talk to him, put head phones on for him to listen to music, do his mouth cares, massage his feet and more… but we had no response back. The doctors told us to prepare for the worse since he was not handling the treatment and things didn't look good. The only thing that hadn't shut down was his heart; everything else had just given up. It was so hard to hear let alone believe we were going to lose him, but we didn't give up the fight, he still had a strong heart; it was all the other concoctions in his body that couldn't handle it.
Day by day we kept strong, as strong as we could for Brandon. I really don’t know how our family were emotional wrecks, I was always crying. My partner always put on the brave face every day for me, although I knew and he told me later that he would go for a walk and have his moments but not in front of me. We never gave up the fight and in the end, we WON the battle.
Brandon was in a coma for just over a month and was slowly woken up. It was a long road to recovery, such as walking, drawing and everyday things were a constant struggle but we got through it together. It’s amazing how kids are so resilient. We had a lot of support from family and friends and it makes all the difference. We met so many amazing people along the way and the support in Sydney was amazing, so thankyou each and every one of you, you know who you are. We had a close bond back then with BULLDOGS players Willie Mason, Willy Tonga, Sonny Bill Williams and Reni Matua they would come and visit us on many occasions, even when Brandon was in ICU, they were incredible. We went to a few of their games and meet other players, it was great to get out and do something together and have a bit of normality. We would see our other children on a regular basis which was very important to all of us, especially them as their world had been turned upside down as well. We are so proud of Brandon’s strength and courage to get through this battle at such a young age; he is an inspiration to us all!!!
We would not have gotten through this trauma as well as we did and that’s thanks to Ronald McDonald House Randwick, it was our home away from home for 10 months. It was our safe haven to go to when we had long long days at the hospital. It was where we could talk to other people going through the same or similar situations. They would always provide you with a couple of meals a week so you wouldn’t have to worry or stress about what you had to cook. There was always someone at hand if you needed them, I really can’t say enough about this place, and it was and still is awesome. The thing I really liked about Ronald McDonald House Randwick is that it is central to everything and not far to go shopping etc. as I never took our car up to Sydney. I don’t, really have a favourite fond memory of RMH Randwick as there were so many good times there, not that anyone really wants to be there, but if you are going through hard times that’s the place we would like to be and will be ever so grateful for your love and support. THANKS AGAIN RMH RANDWICK, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN LOST WITHOUT YOU ESPECIALLY COMING FROM THE COUNTRY!
To people going through similar situations out there “I say never never give up HOPE as hard as it is at times, keep as positive as you can it goes a long way."
Love Sally, Greg, Brandon, Bonnie and Bradley Thomson XXXX