"Our world crumbled": Jackson's story
August 22, 2023
In March 2022, 13-year-old Jackson took a blow to his side during his weekly football training session, which caused him to rupture his spleen. Little did he or his parents Tracy and Darren know at the time, that this sporting injury would lead to a much graver diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The cancer diagnosis would see Jackson enduring a five-month hospital stay, during which time his family was accommodated at the nearby Ronald McDonald House.
Guest blogger – Tracy
Following his accident, Jackson was taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, where he had immediate surgery to stem an arterial bleed. The procedure was successful but due to blood loss, he suffered a cardiac arrest. It was 14 minutes before they could get his heart beating again and he was transferred to intensive care. The doctors knew there had to be a reason why his spleen had ruptured so easily. They soon discovered that he had a cancer of the white blood cells know as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or ‘ALL’. Our world crumbled.
The following day, we were transferred to Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh, 55 miles away from where we live in Perth. Upon arrival, we were given the devastating news that most of Jackson’s major organs had failed, and it would be ‘touch and go’ as to whether he would survive. He was put into an induced coma for six weeks and spent 107 days in intensive care.
Thankfully, the tireless work of all the doctors and nurses saved our son’s life. We spent a total of five months in hospital, and it was a number of months before they could even treat his leukaemia, due to him being too poorly to start cancer treatment.
When we arrived at the hospital in Edinburgh, one of the trauma nurses told us about the Ronald McDonald House, located on the top floor of the hospital. After staying one night on the ward, we were referred for a room in the House, and couldn’t have been more relieved to find they could accommodate us.
We were immediately struck by the friendly and helpful nature of the staff at the House. They made us feel very welcome and tried to ensure that we retained some sense of ‘normality’ despite the trauma we were going through. Occasions such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were marked with thoughtful gifts and activities, and we received chocolate eggs at Easter. All those kind gestures were really appreciated.
The facilities in the House were amazing too. Having a comfortable ensuite bedroom away from the ward, somewhere to get our heads down and rest, was so important. We were also thankful for the communal kitchen, which allowed us to cook proper meals, and the laundry and washing facilities were great. We had a long stay, and it made such a difference to be able to have a space of our own, where we could have time to ourselves.
Also meeting other parents and being able to talk about each other’s experiences was invaluable, as was bringing Jackson over to the House once he was well enough to visit on a Medical Day Pass. It was lovely to be able to spend time there, away from the ward, and enjoy a family meal together. It made such a positive difference to his mental health to have a change of scenery.
We finally got our boy home in September 2022 and his treatment and rehabilitation is ongoing. He will continue his leukaemia treatment until June 2025. We have a long way to go but his resilience and strength amazes us every day.
Meanwhile, having stayed 157 nights at Ronald McDonald House Edinburgh, we were keen to give something back to the Charity. It meant so much to us to have a bedroom there, completely free-of-charge, and we felt we had to do something to show our gratitude. So, in the spring of this year, we set about fundraising for Ronald McDonald House Charities UK and the Teenage Cancer Trust, with a race night and raffle raising a total of £22,000, which we split between both charities.
In conjunction with family friends, who coincidentally stayed at the Edinburgh House at the same time as us, we were able to sponsor a bedroom at the House. Darren knows Majeed, having grown up and played football together in Perth. We were already in Edinburgh with Jackson, and Majeed had been in touch with Darren asking how we all were. Shockingly, just days later, we discovered Majeed’s daughter Sahra had been admitted to the same hospital. We just couldn’t believe it. For both our families to be there in such tragic circumstances and to know one another was so shocking, especially as our children are the same age.
I don’t know how we would have coped without Ronald McDonald House Charities UK. Without their help, we would’ve had to stay off-site, possibly in a hotel or flat, meaning we would have been further away from Jackson. Being just two floors away meant we could be with him in minutes. The Charity took away our financial worries, which is something parents shouldn’t have to worry about when their child is ill. The House and the Charity mean so much to us and it’s been our privilege to be able to give something back.