Mum's funding plea for seriously ill son who needs own bedroom
A Co Antrim mum whose nine-year-old son is battling cancer has launched an appeal to pay for vital changes to her home to protect her seriously ill child from the risk of infection.
Single mum of four Donna McCrellis (39), from Portrush, has to turn the dining area of her rented house into a bedroom to protect son Hunter, who currently shares with his brother.
With no spare cash, Donna has set up an appeal on Crowd Funding.
It is just another challenge for the heartbroken mum, whose life has been turned upside down in the past two months since it was discovered Hunter has an aggressive and fast-growing tumour in his throat.
He has been diagnosed with BCell non Hodgkin Lymphoma, which spread rapidly to his mouth, pancreas and kidneys.
Hunter, who was left fighting for his life in intensive care in March, has just completed a fourth round of intensive chemotherapy and has spent much of the past two months in and out of the Royal Victoria Hospital battling infections.
To make matters worse, the Bushmills Primary School pupil struggles with behavioural problems and learning difficulties which, after numerous assessments, remains undiagnosed.
Life has always been difficult for Hunter, who finds crowds and noise hard to deal with, so the ordeal of his treatment and spending so much time in hospital is even more of a challenge for him and his mum.
Travelling back and forward to Belfast with three other children in the house - Brooke (12), Kai (11) and Caprice (6) - has added to the pressure for Donna.
Now she has been told that Hunter needs his own bedroom to protect him from infections and she is hoping the public will support her appeal.
Donna and Hunter are hoping for good news today when the results of his latest scan will hopefully confirm that his chemotherapy is working and the cancer is receding.
She said: "The cancer was so aggressive it doubled in a day and they had to start chemotherapy when Hunter was still in intensive care.
"The chemo is also aggressive which means it works fast and already the cancer in his mouth seems to have gone and hopefully we will hear it has cleared.
"As well as chemo and surgery he has been back in hospital constantly being treated for infections and the risk is so great that I have been told he can't share a room with his brother any more.
"I have one girl sharing with me, the older one has her own room and the two boys shared. Now I am turning my dining area into a bedroom for Kai so Hunter can have his own space, which he needs anyway because of his behavioural issues.
"We think he might have autism, but still don't know for sure. Since he was two I have been running to specialists to get him support and assessed.
"Life can be hard for him as he prefers to be on his own and doesn't cope well with people. I want to create a room for him that is his wee cave and a wee space just for him where he can relax, as well as be protected from the risk of infection.
"Everything I have in my house has been given to me second hand and I have had to clear out as much as I can to reduce dust and the risk to Hunter and now I hope if I can raise enough money I will be able to give him his own bedroom."
Donna first took Hunter to the doctor with a sore throat in February. Initially she thought he had a cold but when his speech was affected she took him to her GP who immediately referred him to Antrim Area Hospital.
Doctors there suspected he had an abscess in his throat which they tried to remove and treated with antibiotics.
When the lump didn't shrink as doctors had hoped they decided to remove the child's tonsils.
However, unknown to doctors, Hunter had cancer in his tonsils and during surgery he suffered a serious bleed into his stomach and had to be rushed to intensive care.
Donna said: "He had to get a tracheotomy to save his life and was then sent to intensive care for a few days on ventilation.
"It was a scary time and he was very ill, but the hospital was amazing and they did everything to save him.
"He got home a week later and the next evening I received a phone call to say the biopsy results were back and Hunter had cancer."
Hunter was admitted to hospital two days later for tests, but again his airway started to close over and he was rushed to intensive care for a second time.
His cancer spread rapidly to his tongue, mouth and throat area and he was so gravely ill that chemo was started immediately while he was still in intensive care.
He has just completed his fourth cycle of chemo and in between treatments has suffered numerous infections.
Life has been so frantic that it is only now that the full horror of what her son is going through has hit Donna.
She said: "The night I was told he had cancer I had already suspected it, but to hear it for definite I just couldn't hold it and I broke down completely.
"It has been so hard, but I realised early on I had to pull myself together and be strong for Hunter and my other children.
"I just thought, I can't let him down and his dad Ian has been a brilliant support as well. It has been really hard on Hunter.
"He doesn't deal well with people or strange places, so being in hospital was very hard for him and he wouldn't even talk to the staff or even us sometimes.
"It was only this week when we took him to a quiet spot to watch the North West races that I saw him smile for the first time in months. He has also started to let me know if he is in pain which is great, because he has been so quiet and I think it was because it was scary for him.
"It has been such a hard few months that it is only now that it is starting to hit me. Hunter struggles and I understand him and I have to be there for him and I won't let him down.
"We are just hoping for the best news today and if we can get his wee bedroom done then maybe it will help with his recovery."
- If you would like to support Donna and help give Hunter a special space of his own to keep him safe and aid his recovery from cancer, you can go to https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/donna-mccrellis