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.
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.