Rising above the hardship

Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver helps West Kelowna youth and his family deal with need for leukemia chemo treatments.

Alanna Haminishi and her son Thomas

Thomas Haminishi is going to spend his Christmas undergoing chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with leukemia this summer.

But for the 10-year-old West Kelowna youth and his mom Alanna, they are making the best of a stressful situation helped by being tenants at the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver.

The facility provides a place to stay for parents and kids from out of town needing to get medical treatment, located within easy walking distance of the hospital.

“(Ronald McDonald House) is an amazing place,” said Alanna. “The staff and volunteers here are just amazing.

“It’s almost a surreal experience because everyone is so upbeat and the response of generosity is overwhelming.”

For more than 30 years, Ronald McDonald House BC/Yukon has provided accommodation for seriously ill children and their families at BC Children’s Hospital.

Initially, that service was provided through a 13-bedroom home in the city’s Shaughnessy area, but in 2014 a new 73-bedroom house located on the hospital grounds was opened which serves 2,000 families each year in spacious suites with private washrooms.

The facility includes a fitness room, arts and crafts studio, magic room, Lego lounge and comfortable indoor and outdoor lounge areas.

But perhaps its biggest asset is the relief it offers out-of-town families who don’t have relatives in Vancouver who can put them up and can’t afford the financial hardship of staying at a hotel while their child is undergoing lengthy medical treatment.

“It’s very hard on a family when your child goes through something like what Thomas is dealing with. Critical illness like this divides a family because of the treatment involved but you stay positive and know that hopefully by February or March, Thomas will be well enough to go back home and return on a monthly basis for treatments,” said Alanna.

Thomas’ parents are divorced, and he has a 17-year-old brother and 15-year-old sister, along with a seven-year-old step-sister.

For Thomas, who would have been in Grade 5 this year at George Pringle Elementary, he is looking at three years of chemo treatment.

Besides losing his hair, the treatments have hindered his ability to walk and he’s lost partial vision in one eye, but his mom says he’s fared better than many for negative reactions from the chemo drugs.

“The treatments are hard on the body and he’s had some hiccups along the way, but we’re grateful for how Thomas has responded compared to how other kids we’ve met who haven’t responded as well to chemo,” Alanna said.

To help the kids and their parents get a break from the grind of medical treatment, Ronald McDonald House does its best to bring a little Christmas spirit for its cohabitants.

Those activities have included decorating a Christmas tree, visits from Santa, for Thomas being able to take music lessons to learn how to play the piano and ukulele, Christmas carol singing, making cookies, skating at the Richmond arena and a trip to Capilano Bridge in North Vancouver.

Even Ronald McDonald himself came by for a visit with treats from McDonald’s.

“It was the first time since we’ve been here that they actually brought McDonald’s food to the house, but Ronald McDonald came as well and I think I was more excited than Thomas was,” she said.

“It was such a cool event and then after eating, all of us were taken on a field trip to the Capilano Canyon suspension bridge to see the Christmas lights display. It was such a fun day.”

She said Thomas’ spirits were definitely lifted by a visit from members of the Vancouver Canucks, as he was able to get his picture taken with his favourite player, goaltender Ryan Miller, and to also meet Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

Thomas also made a point of finding a Christmas tree this year for their room because of the connection it has to his grandmother, who passed away from cancer last Christmas.

“His grandma was in hospice care and she wanted a Christmas tree so we found one for her and the grandkids all decorated it,” Alanna explained.

“He wanted to get a Christmas tree because it reminds him of his grandma. It is very symbolic for him personally as he feels he and his grandma are on the same journey together.”

 

Just Posted

Big White firefighters camp on roof to fundraise for crosswalks and defibrillators

The eighth annual Rooftop Camp Out, hosted by the Big White Fire Department, starts Friday

UPDATE: Gun allegedly drawn over garbage dispute in Kelowna

The public is asked to stay away from the Christleton Avenue area

Pedestrian hit by slow moving vehicle in Kelowna

Rose and Richter are closed due to pedestrian struck

World Water Day: Special challenge issued to youth to be climate conscious

Friday, March 22, the Okanagan Basin Water Board is issuing a special challenge

Challenge issued to keep Okanagan Rail Trail free of dog poop

A Lake Country resident is challenging others to take extra bags with them

Fierce feline spotted as ‘aggressor’ in face off with coyote in B.C. backyard

North Vancouver resident Norm Lee captures orange cat versus coyote in backyard showdown

Kater to launch ridesharing service in Vancouver by end of month

The Surrey-based company got its permits from the Vancouver Taxi Association

Second case of measles reported in the B.C. Interior

Case is connected to an earlier measles case in 100 Mile House

Explore the sunken treasures of the Shuswap

Divers explore historic boats and a Ford Model T that broke through lake ice while on a delivery

Rat problem arises in the Shuswap

Traps repeatedly selling out as Chase residents deal with unwelcome rodents

GM announces jobs, electric vehicle after Trump criticism

The company says it will spend $300 million at its plant in Orion Township

Trucker who caused Broncos crash likely to be deported: lawyer

The Crown has asked that Sidhu serve 10 years in prison

China chemical plant blast kills 47, injures hundreds more

This is one of China’s worst industrial accidents in recent years

Most Read