Leukaemia is latest blow for baby Imogen

BATTLING ON: Invercargill parents Jackie Evans and Jason Holden with 7-month-old daughter Imogen, who is battling leukaemia.
BATTLING ON: Invercargill parents Jackie Evans and Jason Holden with 7-month-old daughter Imogen, who is battling leukaemia.

An Invercargill family say their newest family member has nine lives - and are hoping they are right.

Parents Jason Holden and Jackie Evans' daughter Imogen has overcome multiple health problems in her first seven months of life.

The couple were told during the pregnancy that Imogen would have Down syndrome.

Since birth, Imogen has had open heart surgery and recurring breathing problems.

The latest blow for the family came last week, when Imogen was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Evans said despite the difficult journey, she had no idea anything was wrong. "I did kick myself a bit . . . I felt like I should have known she was sick."

One in 50 babies with Down syndrome are later diagnosed with leukaemia, and heart complications were not uncommon, she said.

Imogen is the couple's first child together, while Evans had three children and Holden had one child before the pair met.

Holden said Imogen's journey had been chaotic "from day dot", and the latest diagnosis was a bitter pill to swallow.

Evans and Imogen will head to Christchurch next week to begin six months of chemotherapy, while Holden will stay at home with the four older children.

They will have to remain in Christchurch most of that time, apart from short and infrequent return visits should Imogen be well enough. "The struggle will be being stuck down here," Holden said.

Imogen will miss the first family birthday, the first family Christmas, and will spend her own first birthday in hospital, he said.

The couple worked hard to keep family spirits up, he said.

"We're always trying to have a laugh, acting the goat," he said.

Evans said Imogen was such a happy, smiley baby, that one look at her daughter could bring her out of despair.

She will struggle to be away from her three children and her stepdaughter, she said.

Evans' sister Jacinda Evans set up a Facebook page and Givealittle page, hoping to drum up financial support for the family.

Since Friday afternoon, more than $3000 has been donated.

"Jackie said we don't want to seem like we're beggars, but they are a young family and they can't do it on their own," Jacinda said.

There was only limited accommodation available for Holden when he travelled to Christchurch to visit.

Money could go towards general living and household costs and a "people mover" so the whole family could travel to Christchurch, she said.


Givealittle donation site

SO FAR . . .

Imogen's fight for survival Imogen, who has Down syndrome, was born three weeks premature on February 4. A hole in her heart had closed but, minutes after birth, she stopped breathing. She was transferred to Dunedin Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit and given breathing support. At 3 days old, Imogen pulled out her oxygen tube, surprising doctors that she was able to breathe on her own. At 3 months old, she collapsed in her mother's arms and was unresponsive. Low on oxygen, Imogen spent three weeks at Southland Hospital before she was flown to Starship hospital in Auckland in severe heart failure. Three holes were discovered in her heart and she underwent successful open-heart surgery. Last week, blood tests confirmed she had leukaemia.

The Southland Times