Baby Maverick defies expectation in blood cancer battle
At only nine-months-old, Maverick Hill was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood cancer and forced to endure immediate and aggressive treatment away from home.
Maverick’s mum, Georgia remembers how suddenly he started to show symptoms.
“In early October 2020, we were still in lockdown in our hometown, Balnarring which is an hour and a half south of Melbourne,” said Georgia.
“So I rang the doctor when Mav started spiking fevers and then had a couple of blood noses overnight.
“The nurse who was on call said not to worry, that it was probably viral infection but to call again in a few days if his symptoms persist.”
Within days, Maverick started to develop a rash and bruising which would not blanch under pressure.
Georgia called the doctor again who suspected meningitis and said to bring him in after the weekend if he did not improve.
“The doctor took one look at him on Monday and said he needed to have blood tests immediately,” said Georgia.
“I remember the Wednesday morning I got the call about his results…I had just dropped my older daughter at daycare and was buying a rack of ribs at the butcher.
“I grabbed my husband, Brodie and Mav and we raced into the surgery where we were told to go straight to the children’s hospital in Melbourne.”
After what Georgia considers ‘the longest drive of our lives’, the family arrived at the hospital and was put through a number of routine tests.
“It was all a huge blur but eventually the oncology team came down and broke the news to us that Maverick had leukaemia,” said Georgia.
“We barely had time to process the news before they started preparing him for a lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy.
“He was beside himself by this time, hadn’t slept and had been poked and prodded as they couldn’t find his vein to draw blood.
“They had to put both of his arms in splints to keep them straight so they could get cannulas in.
“We had to pin him down and he wouldn’t stop screaming – it was heartbreaking”
Maverick’s diagnosis was then confirmed as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
“While an ALL diagnosis is rare for infants under 12–months–old, Mav’s results came back showing that his particular disease was low-risk and entirely treatable,” explained Georgia. “That was a huge relief.”
After a few weeks in Melbourne, the family, including three-year-old sister, Mackenzie, were offered a unit at a Leukaemia Foundation Patient Accommodation Centre completely free-of-charge.
“We were incredibly grateful, as we had heard the accommodation had been really busy and Brodie had been doing the three-hour round trip back home every day,” said Georgia.
“That‘s the last thing you want to do after spending the whole day in hospital with your very sick baby.
“The unit is only a 10-minute walk from the hospital, we’ve made it our little ‘city home’ and being able to stay altogether has been really important.”
Maverick has responded beyond expectation to his treatment, achieving remission after two weeks on steroids so he could begin chemotherapy.
“He reacted really well to the steroids, which was amazing, and we have now almost completed his induction stage of chemotherapy,” explained Georgia.
“We were warned that he was going to be really unwell throughout treatment and to prepare for the fevers, loss of appetite, nausea and fatigue.
“But he was incredible and practically did the opposite of anything they said he was going to do.
“Although, the steroids did make him super angry and really hungry. He stopped sleeping and they made his face quite fat.
“During the third cycle he also got a bad case of mucositis. But that was only really for a week and the consultant said he had one of the fastest recovering bone marrows they’d seen.”
While the start to Maverick’s treatment has been largely positive, the family understand their blood cancer journey is far from over with more chemotherapy and then 18-months of maintenance treatment ahead.
“From the beginning, we’ve said we’ll just take it one step at a time and take each day as it comes,” said Georgia.
“We don’t like to overwhelm ourselves with everything that’s to come but just live in the moment and be there for Mav as best we can.
“We are beyond grateful to have a great support network of family, friends and the Leukaemia Foundation behind us.
“We couldn’t imagine going through this without it.”