Hospital helps parents stay close

By Martin Johnston

Young patients such as Asisi Kaufusi, pictured with parents Sione and Estelle, will benefit from Starship's modernised facilities. Photo / Greg Bowker
Young patients such as Asisi Kaufusi, pictured with parents Sione and Estelle, will benefit from Starship's modernised facilities. Photo / Greg Bowker

At first, Asisi Kaufusi's parents thought he had a cold.

But after antibiotics did nothing for 7-year-old Asisi's fatigue, fever and other symptoms, the Onehunga family took him back to their doctor last September.

Asisi was referred to Starship Children's Hospital after a lump was found in his pelvic area. His mother, Estelle Kaufusi, started to suspect cancer when she saw how much attention her son was receiving from doctors at the emergency department.

"My head was spinning; my whole world went crashing down," Mrs Kaufusi said.

Blood tests and a scan were done the next day, and a tissue sample was taken from the pelvic lump. Hodgkins disease was confirmed, a cancer of the lymphatic system.

Mrs Kaufusi wanted to stay at her son's side. She could do so for the blood tests, she was within talking distance in another room during the scan, and she could accompany him into the operating theatre before the biopsy but had to leave once the anaesthetic put him to sleep.

"Asisi was really scared. All I could say to him was, 'You'll be okay'.

"I didn't want to leave him," she said, and stayed out in the corridor. "I didn't want to go anywhere ...

"All I wanted to do was make sure when he woke up that I was standing right next to him, because I said to him that when he woke up I would be right next to him, waiting.

"There were other parents waiting in the corridor and I'm pretty sure we all had the same feeling, wondering what was going on."

The tense uncertainty continued for what felt like hours, until eventually she was told Asisi was being moved to the recovery area.

"He woke up and I was there."

Because of this experience, Mrs Kaufusi - a contact centre employee of Starship Foundation supporter Mercury Energy - gives her endorsement to the soon-to-be-unveiled upgrading of Starship's pre-operative area, which includes a waiting room and a toilet. Previously parents who needed a toilet had to leave the operating theatres suite.

Mrs Kaufusi was afraid that if she left the suite she would miss the call to the recovery room. "But to have a waiting room and bathroom in that waiting room, it would make the parents feel a lot more comfortable."

Asisi was given chemotherapy until January, followed by radiation therapy sessions for six weeks. A scan after the chemotherapy finished showed the pelvic tumour had shrunk considerably. Other tumours had been found around the oesophagus and spleen and he hasn't had a scan since the radiotherapy ended to confirm they have gone.

But Mrs Kaufusi said her son had regained a lot of energy and had been remarkably positive about his cancer experience. He even agreed to a doctor's request to talk to a 12-year-old girl who was upset after being diagnosed with the same cancer.

"He said straight away, 'Yes, I will talk to her, I'll be able to tell her it's going to be okay, I went through it and I'm okay'."

- NZ Herald

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