‘Special wee dude’ facing severe health challenges is an inspiration to his family.

A 12-year-old boy in hospital being treated for a rare digestive condition is managing to light up Christmas for his family and those around him.

Cameron McIntosh has suffered all his life from a threatening stomach disorder making it difficult for him to eat and hold down his food.

Yet the positive way he bears his illness has made him an inspiration for his mother Leah: "Cameron blows people away because more often than not he's got a smile on his face," she says.

"He's pretty quiet and sometimes it overwhelms him, but he doesn't dwell on the negative – it's almost like he makes it his business to keep everyone else's spirits up.
"He totally amazes me, I'm so proud of him, he's been my absolute hero this year," McIntosh says.

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When his bravery was brought to the attention of the ASB, the bank gave him a special Christmas surprise with an ASB Good as Gold award. Not only has it kitted him out with enough Lego to fill his hospital bed, it has given the McIntosh family $15,000 to spend on whatever will bring them joy as a family.

Although McIntosh says they have yet to decide what to do with the money, it is likely the Oamaru family (herself, husband Brett, Cameron and his two 18-year-old twin sisters) will take a holiday in Australia.

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It will be a rare reward for the difficult times - the first sign he had a problem surfaced when he was just three weeks old - Cameron and his family have been through. In the words of his mother: "It's not fair and I often question why him, why us? It sometimes brings me to tears."

This year when his condition took a turn for the worse, he was admitted to Christchurch Hospital where he has undergone multiple surgeries, remains hooked up to a feeding tube and is facing having to spend Christmas there, too.

"It hasn't been good," says his mother. "It has been very emotional at times because we don't know how it is going to turn out."

Over the years, Cameron has had periods where he has been relatively well but at the beginning of this year that all changed when, after only six days back at school from the summer holidays, he became seriously unwell.

"It was like his stomach stopped working," McIntosh says. "We woke every morning and Cameron would be vomiting, he would be on the toilet 14 or 15 times a day, he was losing weight and he looked very unwell."

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Since then Cameron has been in and out of hospital, his most recent stay now stretching for more than six weeks. In that time McIntosh estimates he has undergone between 15 and 20 invasive procedures including major surgeries.

She says doctors have not been able to say when or if Cameron will overcome his disorder and lead a normal life.

"If he chooses to eat and drink he can," she says. "But because he feels so unwell he is being fed by tube and will continue with it until he can sustain himself."

His condition was first diagnosed when, aged three weeks, he began to turn blue while being bottle- fed.

"He seemed to be having trouble eating and breathing at the same time, that was the first sign things were not right," McIntosh says.

Medical tests also show Cameron to be suffering from a rare genetic disorder and fetal anti -convulsant syndrome, a condition that can affect cognitive development and comprehension and has other symptoms.

For McIntosh and her husband, the year has been one of great stress. Although Brett has continued to work (he is a systems control technician at Macraes Mine, New Zealand's largest gold mine) Leah has spent most of her time in Christchurch to be with Cameron.

Christian May, ASB's GM of corporate communications, says Cameron's positivity and bravery in the face of all his health challenges makes him a very deserving recipient of the award.

Family friend Karo Wilson nominated Cameron for the Good as Gold award. "He really is a special wee dude who needs to feel special and loved and I would love for him to be spoiled," she says. "He's pretty cool how he's endured this and maintained a positive attitude. You have to be a special kid to be like that.

"But it's been really tough especially for Leah being separated from Brett for long periods (Christchurch is 250km away from their home in Oamaru) and having to cope with the challenge and stress of not knowing how long this will go on for.

"I nominated him because I wanted to help in some way, to let them know we are thinking of them."