A safe haven

Life hasn’t been easy for Noah Hal­lam and his fam­ily, but through­out their chal­leng­ing jour­ney, one con­stant has been the ‘safe haven’ of Ron­ald Mcdon­ald House Ade­laide.

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It was at a rou­tine 20-week preg­nancy scan that Bree and Steven Hal­lam from Whyalla, SA, dis­cov­ered their un­born son had hy­dro­cephalus (fluid on the brain). Af­ter close mon­i­tor­ing – which meant reg­u­lar 384km trips to Ade­laide for scans – son Noah was born with com­pli­ca­tions at 37 weeks in Septem­ber 2014. But that was only the be­gin­ning of this fam­ily’s ad­ver­si­ties.

“When Noah was about 10 weeks old we no­ticed there had been a sig­nif­i­cant change in the shape of his head,” says Bree. Af­ter sev­eral ap­point­ments and tests, at five months Noah was di­ag­nosed with Mul­ti­ple Cran­iosyn­os­to­sis (fu­sion of the skull), which meant his brain didn’t have room to grow prop­erly.

“At seven months he un­der­went a full cra­nial vault re­mod­elling,” ex­plains Bree, a ma­jor surgery to re­con­struct lit­tle Noah’s en­tire skull. Noah has had six ad­di­tional surg­eries since then, and now has a per­ma­nent shunt in his head to drain the fluid from his brain into his stom­ach.

Now three, Noah’s chal­lenges aren’t over yet. He has an Arnold-chiari Mal­for­ma­tion af­fect­ing his brain and skull which will see him have more ex­ten­sive surgery later this year, while ge­netic test­ing has un­cov­ered an­other as-yet-un­known syn­drome. This is on top of sev­eral other con­di­tions, some of which have al­ready re­quired surgery.

“Noah’s a tough lit­tle bug­ger but he’s also a com­plex lit­tle boy. We see 18 dif­fer­ent spe­cial­ists for him,” says Bree.

With the ma­jor­ity of these spe­cial­ists lo­cated in Ade­laide, Bree and Noah have to make monthly vis­its to the cap­i­tal, which is not only chal­leng­ing for them but for Bree’s el­der son Beau, who has started his first year of school in Whyalla.

“Beau gets quite emo­tional and anx­ious be­cause there have been times we went down to Ade­laide for three days and ended up spend­ing 19 days in hos­pi­tal,” she says.

The fam­ily is so grate­ful that thanks to Ron­ald Mcdon­ald House Ade­laide, not only do Bree and Noah have a com­fort­ing place to stay while Noah un­der­goes treat­ment, but Steven and Beau are also able to come down on the week­ends so the fam­ily can spend time to­gether.

“It’s been a life saver – my safe haven for the last two and a half years,” says Bree. “The staff and vol­un­teers are price­less, you’re al­ways wel­comed with open arms, whether you want to have a chat, a cuppa or a shoul­der to cry on, there’s al­ways some­one will­ing to lis­ten.”

Bet­ter yet, Bree says the House has in­tro­duced her to par­ents in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, who have be­come her ex­tended fam­ily.

“The other night, there were about six other fam­i­lies at the House and we had a bar­bie on the play deck,” she re­calls. “We were say­ing while our sit­u­a­tions may be dif­fer­ent, we’re all there for the same rea­son – our kids. It’s so good to be able to talk to some­body who re­ally knows what you’re go­ing through.”

Main Im­age: A rare treat for the Hal­lam fam­ily - to­gether near home in Whyalla, SA.

Right: Noah with big brother Beau. Be­low: Noah’s skull was fused ...ma­jor re­con­struc­tion surgery al­lowed room for his brain to grow.

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