Dealing with a very sick child was heartbreaking enough for Lower Hutt parents Caroline and Darren Williamson. Then burglars added twice to their distress.
The couple took 1-year-old Daniel to an after-hours doctor just three days before Christmas and were sent straight to Hutt Hospital, where doctors diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
They were so concerned about the boy that he was transferred the same night to the child cancer unit in Christchurch.
His devastated parents naturally went too - only to have burglars strike twice at their Alicetown home while they were away.
The first time, on Friday, they made off with the family's car, a Nissan Sentra, registration RG 6088. They returned the next night and broke into the house.
"There was nothing taken, but that's not really the point," Mr Williamson said from Christchurch Hospital yesterday. "They kick you while you're down."
His wife was upset the thieves could be so "opportunistic", but said: "There's nothing we can do about it, so we just don't care any more. It's the least of our worries."
The family spent Christmas Day in the hospital, where the "wonderful" nurses made them pancakes with bacon and cream.
Under the ward's care, Daniel had also started to bounce back towards his normal, more active self, Mrs Williamson said.
He starts chemotherapy treatment tomorrow. "We're remaining optimistic, as of course you have to in these situations."
They first noticed Daniel was unwell three or four days after his first birthday earlier this month, she said.
"We took him to the after-hours doctor, who pretty much sent us straight to Hutt Hospital."
The couple had people keeping an eye on their house while they were away, but Mrs Williamson said: "Dad rang me yesterday to say, ‘Where is your car?'
"We reported it stolen. They checked out the house and it appeared to be fine."
But her sister rang her yesterday to say someone had been at the house again overnight, rustling through the drawers.
Her husband said their neighbours were also burgled on Boxing Day.
"They're doing the rounds - as they do at Christmas.
"I just feel sad. I hope that, for whatever reason they have done it, they get some help for their sickness."
But Mrs Williamson said: "It doesn't matter. I'm spending all my emotional energy on my son, so I don't have time to be angry."
Taking to social media on Saturday to try to track down their missing Nissan, the family received an outpouring of support. A Christchurch car dealership offered the trio a free vehicle, shipped to Wellington.
It was as if the family had experienced both sides of human nature in one weekend, she said. "It's been quite humbling for us to see how much support there is."
Lower Hutt police declined to comment yesterday on the spate of burglaries.
- Fairfax Media