Leukaemia: She was only six hours old
With her back pack on and a smile from ear to ear, little Maggie Coppin is off to school this year – a day her parents thought may never come. We featured Maggie back in 2009 in The Carer Newsletter. Her Mum Anne shares their story.
Only six hours after our first child Maggie was born, our joy turned to tears of despair when doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia.
Hours after her birth, I noticed a blue spot on Maggie’s forehead, with hospital staff then finding she was covered in these ‘blueberry marks’ after they bathed her.
The director of paediatrics was called in and we were asked if they could run a series of blood tests on Maggie.
It never occurred to us that it could be serious. John went home to phone our family and tell them the wonderful news.
Maggie was six hours old when the tests revealed the devastating diagnosis of leukaemia.
She was immediately transferred by ambulance from Ipswich General Hospital in our hometown, to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and went staight into intensive care.
The oncologist told us Maggie had congenital monocytic leukaemia, meaning she was born with it – a very rare condition. She was the first recorded case of a baby being born with leukaemia in Australia.
At only two and half weeks old, Maggie began her gruelling chemotherapy treatment.
Chemotherapy caused Maggie to deteriorate dramatically and we were told it was unlikely she would live. Heart, lungs, kidneys and liver started to shut down. She was put on a ventilator but she was too young for kidney dialysis.
The Thursday night before Good Friday, doctors told us our tiny baby had a 2% chance of survival. We called family and friends and told them to come and say goodbye to our precious girl.
Then came a miraculous break through. The oncologist and ICU doctors came to tell us that Maggie had passed urine during the night which meant that her kidneys were trying to begin functioning again. We couldn’t believe it.
After that, Maggie got stronger and stronger everyday. At three months, Maggie was given a bone marrow transplant via donated umbilical cord blood and survived weeks of dialysis and intensive care when her kidneys shut down again.
At five-and-a-half months old Maggie was discharged from hospital and at seven months we were finally able to take our baby home.
Maggie is now in full remission. We describe her as our “miracle baby”.
During the seven months of Maggie’s treatment, John gave up his job as a painter to be with us in Brisbane. We were provided with a free home-away-from-home at the Leukaemia Foundation’s ESA Village at South Brisbane.
We are so incredibly grateful to the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland for providing us with a home, free-of-charge, in such a comfortable and nurturing environment.
I’m not sure how we would have coped without the Foundation’s help. It is hard to describe what it means to be given that kind of support when you are facing your worst nightmare.
In October 2009, we welcomed Maggie’s little sister, Ruby, into our family. Watching our two girls play together is just wonderful.
Maggie was very excited about starting prep this year, and John and I felt very blessed indeed when we thought about how close we came to losing her.
An update on Maggie
We recently published an update on how Maggie’s doing now – read it here.
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