Brave Hun­tar gets his wish

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN WIL­LIAMS

For Up­per Hutt’s Hun­tar Sam­mons, be­ing in charge of heavy dig­ging ma­chin­ery was a wish come true.

‘‘He loved it, he hasn’t stopped smil­ing and talk­ing about it,’’ Michelle Hail­wood said of her 11-year-old son’s Make-A-Wish visit with staff – and ma­chines – at the Tren­tham home of the RDL Group.

For Hun­tar it was a bright spot in what has been a tough and scary 18 months.

In April 2016, the Tren­tham young­ster was rushed to Christchurch hospi­tal af­ter scans re­vealed large masses on his brain which spinal fluid and bone marrow test­ing soon con­firmed as Burkitt Non-Hodgkin Lym­phoma.

‘‘His whole jaw was swollen. He was in in­tense pain and was pass­ing out,’’ Hail­wood said.

Hun­tar’s chemo­ther­apy was tough go­ing and while in Septem­ber, 2016 he was de­clared can­cer free, the treat­ment came at an un­ex­pected and heavy cost.

‘‘With his third cy­cle of chemo­ther­apy he had a se­vere re­ac­tion which left him with dam­age to his spinal nerves, paral­ysed. He lost all feel­ing from the chest down, he couldn’t tell if things were hot or cold and we were told it was 50/50 that it would go away.’’

The treat­ment com­pli­ca­tion is ‘‘very, very rare ‘‘ and the pos­si­bil­ity Hun­tar might not walk again was very real.

The sud­den paral­y­sis meant Hun­tar and his mother headed to the Wil­son Cen­tre in Auck­land rather than home af­ter their time in Christchurch, .

There they learned Hun­tar was clear of can­cer but they al­ready knew he faced more big chal­lenges.

Hap­pily things did im­prove and af­ter in­ten­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Hun­tar clam­bered onto the road to re­cov­ery.

‘‘A week be­fore Christ­mas we were able to go home, to stay,’’ Hail­wood said.

‘‘Hun­tar could sup­port him­self to stand but he couldn’t walk. We had had ramps and rails put in and they were needed.

‘‘Now he’s good, he can walk for a lit­tle bit but it’s still with a limp.’’

His mo­bil­ity and strength is im­prov­ing with home-based phys­io­ther­apy ev­ery day for at least an­other year or more.

This school term Hun­tar is aim­ing to at­tend one full day a week at St Bren­dan’s pri­mary and two hours on other days.

‘‘I was work­ing but ba­si­cally I’m his carer now,’’ Hail­wood said of her ‘‘brave and re­silient’’ boy.

‘‘He has his bad days, ob­vi­ously, but not too many con­sider- ing what he’s been through.

‘‘We know there is still a long way to go but we also know ev­ery day is a lit­tle bet­ter than the last.’’

And Oc­to­ber 28, the day when the Make a Wish Foun­da­tion and the RDL Group com­bined to give Hun­tar his wish was def­i­nitely one of those.

With sup­port from his par­ents, in­clud­ing a lift up into the ex­ca­va­tor cabin from his dad, Ricky Sam­mons, Hun­tar tried his hand as an ex­ca­va­tor driver.

Wear­ing a hard hat and a per­son­alised vest, he also rel­ished the chance to take a spin in a truck and showed he was pretty handy on the horn.’’

Hun­tar Sam­mons, with his fa­ther Ricky, gets his wish to drive an earth­works ex­ca­va­tor at the premises of the RDL Group in Up­per Hutt. Inset, check­ing out a truck. Hun­tar Sam­mons' mum, Michelle Hail­wood

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