Monday, December 31, 2007

Grieving mum fights for service

KERI WELHAM - The Dominion Post | Monday, 29 October 2007


PUPPY LOVE: Braden Hook, 9, and Tyler the bichon frise get acquainted.

Braden Hook's last days were spent cuddling the puppy he'd always wanted.

Tyler the bichon frise was a present from Palmerston North locals who had learned of nine-year-old Braden's heartbreakingly swift decline in the grip of a rare and aggressive cancer.

Bronwyn Hook hopes her son's story will drive other parents to fight for the future of Wellington Hospital's child cancer service.

Braden died in August. Five months earlier, the sporty, affectionate, laidback Central Normal School pupil had taken an unusually long time to recover from a tummy bug - the first, seemingly-inconsequential symptom of an aggressive tumour in his adrenal gland that would eventually measure 13cm in diameter.

By May, Palmerston North Hospital staff had diagnosed cancer, but a full and accurate diagnosis was not available till June after tests at Wellington Hospital.

The tumour was too big to remove so Braden had three rounds of chemotherapy, but eventually, with secondary cancer in his lungs, specialists realised that more treatment would kill the increasingly fragile child more swiftly.

Bronwyn and Tim Hook took their eldest son home to die. He spent seven weeks with Tyler and his family, including his brother Nathan, 7, and friends, teachers and classmates.

Mrs Hook said she had told Braden it was possible he would die. He never questioned that reality, but she believed he was scared.

"For a nine-year-old, they have the understanding it's all okay. Mum and Dad will fix it."

During Braden's treatment at Wellington Hospital, his brother and best friend visited regularly. His father was able to stay in Ronald McDonald House while Mrs Hook slept at Braden's bedside.

Mr Hook and Nathan would not have been able to stay or visit regularly if he had been treated in Auckland or Christchurch.

Mrs Hook said she did not want her taxes spent on the additional $10 million pledged to the America's Cup after this year's failed campaign: "Is that really that important? What about life?"

With Wellington Hospital back in crisis mode with the departure of the sole remaining child cancer specialist, she feared other families would be forced apart when they most needed each other. Mrs Hook urged families in the lower North Island to lobby for more funding to ensure the service's future.

"Everyone needs to do as much as they can to keep the service. I can't imagine having to travel to Auckland and Christchurch."

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