Fun and laughter and adventure: Jess’ story
Manawatu local Jessica Beere was nine years old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called aplastic anaemia, a disorder where the bone marrow and the hematopoietic stem cells that reside there are damaged.
The first signs occurred around Christmas 2015 as Jess started to show unusual bruising, fatigue, and a loss of interest in her pony – a passion of hers. Within days she became worse, her parents Rebecca and John took her to an after-hours clinic on New Year’s Eve – which also happened to be Rebecca’s birthday.
“The doctor sent us to A&E to have tests done and I remember she was admitted straight away as her blood levels were extremely low,” says Rebecca. “After two weeks we were discharged, but that night she suffered a brain bleed so we were rushed to Starship Hospital intensive care, then neurology, heart ward, and eventually oncology wards while teams of specialists tested her to find the cause.”
Rebecca says it was about as serious as it gets. “Jess was in intensive care and at times it was minute-by-minute. The unknown was so scary, the whole experience was a very intense blur.”
The diagnosis came after many long weeks of tests and waiting and Jess spent much of 2016 in Starship Hospital, including her 10th birthday, which was spent unconscious. Jess underwent a bone marrow transplant and had to have chemotherapy treatment, losing her hair in the process.
Fortunately, the treatments were a success, and as Jess began to transition into recovery her hospital visits decreased from every day, to now only having to go in for check-ups once every six months.
In 2017, the Beere family moved to Manawatu for John's job, and soon heard about Camp Quality through a friend who’d had a similar situation.
Jess, who’s now 12, has been on two week-long summer camps and she absolutely loves them. “Jess just slotted in at camp immediately, because everyone there had a story – so in that place, she was just a normal kid there to have fun,” says Rebecca.
“It was a great reassurance for us – knowing we could trust the Camp Quality team with Jess. We’ve found it hard to get babysitters or help in the past as she has specific care needs, but the volunteers and professional medical team at Camp Quality are the best – they know exactly how to care for Jess. And not only to provide care, but the fun and laughter and adventure she especially needs."