Jacob’s smile hides his big battle

Each year, Countdown supermarkets run an appeal to help provide equipment for patients using Christchurch Hospital's paediatric and neo-natal services. Sarla Donovan visits eight year old Jacob Matua in Christchurch Hospital, where he is receiving life-saving treatment.

Eight year old Jacob Matua is using some equipment that was purchased, with money from the Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal. PHOTO: Martin Hunter

Jacob Matua has visited this place many times.

He’s in the Children’s Haematology and Oncology Centre in the Riverside building at Christchurch Hospital, where’s he’s hooked up to an infusion pump dispensing the medicine he needs. It’ll be 10pm before this day’s treatment is over.

After the eight-year-old started getting “headaches and tummy pain, neck pain, arm pain,” at the end of last year, a cancer diagnosis followed, along with nearly three months in hospital, getting treatment.

Now he comes in for shorter stays – four days this time – and is crossing his fingers that he can return to his Clyde Rd home tomorrow.

Jacob’s not well enough to attend his school, Burnside Primary, at the moment. He couldn’t even eat his birthday chocolate cake in May: “Because sometimes I don’t eat,” he said.

Charge nurse manager Chrissy Bond lightens the mood: “I wish I could say that!”

The nurses play cards with him, including memory and skip bo. Lucy Stephenson, who is supervising today, says he’s quite the card shark. “I win every time,” Jacob says with a grin.

His aunt Ula Faamoe sits with him, too, giving his mum – who has four other children including twin three-year-old’s – a break.

She says he’s well at the moment: “The best I’ve seen him since starting the chemotherapy. He’s making great progress.”

Beside his bed, a tall pump stand holds all kinds of medicines and beeping equipment.

The $5000 stand is one of four in the centre, purchased with money from the Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal in 2013.

Mrs Bond said it holds five to six pumps and keeps the medicines stable, as well as allowing nurses to easily read information on screens attached to the pumps. “DHBs find equipment like this hard to fund, because we can ‘make do’ with inferior (devices). It isn’t essential, but it just makes everybody’s life easier,” she said.

Last year’s appeal raised $123,270 for Christchurch Hospital’s paediatric wards and neo-natal unit.

Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal chairwoman Ruth Krippner says most kiwi kids will visit hospital at some stage in their childhood. She said Countdown is proud to play a part in helping provide these hospitals with the equipment needed to treat illness and injury.

“Whether it’s a one off visit for a minor injury or a lengthy stay for a serious illness, most New Zealand children will have a brush with a children’s hospital ward at some point​ – just like this family,” Ms Krippner said.

“Thanks to the generosity of our customers and the fundraising efforts of the Countdown teams, we’re able to help provide hospitals with the much needed-equipment to treat thousands of Kiwi kids. Last year, we raised ​more than $1.1 million, and we’re hoping to do the same this year.”

Meanwhile, Jacob is busy putting on his “best face” for the photographer.

“Does a picture come out of that?” he asks.

How to donate

•To donate to the appeal, visit your local Countdown and donate at the checkout or purchase a Kids Hospital Appeal wristband or raffle ticket

•Contributions can be made at any Countdown, including the Northlands and Northwood stores

•The appeal has raised more than $10.4 million since it began in 2007

•It fundraises for 11 children’s hospitals around New Zealand, including Christchurch Hospital

•It runs from August 7 until October 29