Baby Max was just three days old when diagnosed with a hole in his heart. The news came as an enormous shock for first-time parents Mils and Hayley Muliaina.
To add to their stress, the same day they were told of Max’s heart condition Mils was scheduled for the All Black’s 2008 end of year tour. A decision was made to delay surgery on Max’s heart until he was 8 weeks old, so he would have the best chance of recovery. With Mils away, Hayley and Max relocated to stay close to the lifesaving treatment Max needed at Starship Children’s Hospital while they waited for his surgery
Mil’s returned from tour in time for Max’s surgery and he and Hayley moved into Ronald McDonald House Auckland, taking turns to stay with Max on the ward.
“If Ronald McDonald House hadn’t been an option for us, even though my Mum lived across town it was too far away, we would’ve had to get a hotel near the hospital making things a whole lot more stressful than they already were,” said Hayley.
Max underwent surgery on Christmas Eve and spent the days that followed recovering in hospital. “We were at the House for Christmas and although Max had to remain in Starship there was a stocking outside our room for him. It was amazing! Mils and I will never forget our Christmas at Ronald McDonald House.”
The House gave Mils and Hayley a space where they could still be together as a family. “The communal lounges gave us a place where they could meet with friends and family. It was our home at the hospital. Because only one of us was allowed to stay in the room with Max, having the House there meant the other person didn’t feel like they were leaving.”
The surgery to repair the hole in Max’s heart was a success and a week later the family were able to return home to Hamilton. Just a week after arriving home Max was again admitted to Starship, this time for a hernia operation. Mils and Hayley spent the night in the Ronald McDonald Family Room’s emergency accommodation wing, inside Starship so they could both remain close by should anything happen.
Max is now a healthy, active 2-year-old, having only needed the one operation on his heart. Doctors will see him again after his fifth birthday just to ensure his heart is still going strong. Although it’s been over two years since their ordeal, Hayley still remembers her time spent at Ronald McDonald House.
The House is beautiful. It’s a very positive and welcoming place. Ronald McDonald House gave us hope - that was the biggest thing for us”.