Monday, December 31, 2007

No birthday in isolation ward for little Kyah

The Dominion Post | Tuesday, 30 October 2007


MASSIVE STRAIN: Wellington couple Jason Milne and Shanell Christian with daughter Kyah who will have surgery in Christchurch on tumours in her neck and abdomen.

Little Kyah Milne turns two in a couple of weeks, but there will be no party.

She will be in an isolation ward at Christchurch Hospital recovering from major surgery.

The Wellington toddler - sent to Christchurch less than 24 hours after a cancer diagnosis in July - came home last week for time with her father and brothers before surgery today on tumours in her neck and abdomen.

She has already had several gruelling chemotherapy sessions to shrink the tumours from the neuroblastoma, a rare cancer of the adrenal glands mainly affecting children under five.

After the operation, she will undergo a harvest of stem cells, which build and repair tissue and blood systems. She will then face radiotherapy treatment to fight the cancer, and have a stem cell transplant to replace the cells. The process is required because radiotherapy can destroy bone marrow, where normal blood cells are produced.

Kyah's father, Jason Milne, said she would stay in isolation for many weeks as her immune system would be vulnerable, but the family hoped to be reunited by the end of the year.

He has cut down his work hours to look after Kaleb, 11, and Jordan, 6, while his partner Shanell Christian stays in Christchurch with Kyah. "It's been a massive strain on all of us," he said. "But I can't imagine how hard it would be if I didn't have a sympathetic employer or family to help carry the load."

Mr Milne's mother looks after the boys when he goes to Christchurch every second week, and other family members have taken time off work to help out.

Though official health board policy says only one caregiver gets free travel, Capital and Coast District Health Board has been picking up the tab for Mr Milne's flights to Christchurch, and the Child Cancer Foundation has paid for the boys' plane tickets a few times.

He said his sons struggled with being separated from their mother and baby sister.

"Kaleb found it particularly hard because he's old enough to understand what the implications are for Kyah."

Kaleb said it was hard at first when Kyah lost her hair: "But now we look at photos of her with hair and it's like `Who's that?"'

He described his little sister as "very funny and loud". "She's the boss of the house and now she's the boss of the hospital too."

Mr Milne, commenting on the resignation of Dr Anne Mitchell, Wellington's sole remaining child cancer specialist, said it would have been a very difficult decision. "I think it took real guts on her part ... if she felt like she was bashing her head against a brick wall and nothing was going to change, she's right to resign."

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