Connor Smiles On
20 Apr 2012
Asking a toddler to stay put for 11 hours isn’t an easy task. But for gorgeous Auckland two-year-old Connor Campbell it is part of his daily life now and he complies amazingly well.
Connor is like an effervescent jellybean during the day, but at night he is hooked up to a dialysis machine in his bedroom to remove waste and fluid from his blood.
And he is lucky to be there.
Connor has had both his kidneys removed, has been close to death and was not expected to be able receive Peritoneal dialysis at home due to internal adhesions in his stomach. When he first went onto dialysis it was for 24 hours a day and later five times a week, in hospital.
So while Connor’s life is not easy, Mum Nikki feels very fortunate.
Connor’s cancer journey began in August 2010 when a large Wilms tumour inside his left kidney ruptured. It was removed and chemotherapy followed. However at the beginning of February, 2011, Connor had to have his second kidney removed as its position was inoperable and had not responded well to chemotherapy. Connor reacts to anaesthetic and his blood pressure dropped dangerously low post surgery. He was in hospital for three months.
“Our doctor, Jane Skeen, said the priority was to save Connor’s life, and that we would do what we had to do, to do that,” says Nikki.
Connor started Hemodialysis immediately after surgery, and at first was on the dialysis machine full time. Radiotherapy followed and then more chemotherapy.
Connor now has his Purple Heart representing the end of cancer treatment, but because of his renal condition his journey continues every day.
In addition to his overnight dialysis, Nikki puts fluid through a plastic tube in an abdominal cavity and makes dressing changes daily. Connor is also on several medications and fortnightly hormone injections to stimulate the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, as this is something his kidneys would normally control.
Nikki and Connor are also pretty much housebound until Connor’s immunisations are complete. They should be complete by end of summer. And yet given how different her son’s outcome could have been, Nikki is very grateful.
“People ask how I cope, but you just deal with it – you have to,” Nikki says.
Connor’s only outing is a trip to the supermarket and even that is a challenge for Nikki who pushes Connor is a covered buggy with one hand and pulls the trolley with her other. “You get some very funny looks and just have to laugh. Because Connor doesn’t look sick- you wouldn’t know – people don’t understand what you are doing.”
Then there are eating challenges. Connor can tolerate very little potassium, a mineral found in many foods, especially milk, fruits, and vegetables. It affects how steadily your heart beats and eating too much potassium can be very dangerous to Connor’s heart.
“Connor has also gone off a lot of foods since chemo – the only thing he really loves in sausages – any calories become good calories!” Nikki says
Nikki and husband Gordon don’t look ahead. Nikki lives each moment as it comes, but is aware that Connor will be reviewed for a kidney transplant when he has been cancer free for two years and weighs more than 12kgs. Connor’s older sister Maud (5) adores her little brother and is constantly asking if he has a new kidney yet.
Nikki has enjoyed the visits of Family Support Coordinator Janet Masina and “just knowing that someone cares.” She also values Connor’s Beads of Courage, which are hanging on the wall on the family’s lounge. Connor has over 1,700 beads and continues to receive them for things like his dressing changes. “They are such a good reminder of what we have been through, you do forget – I look at them and think what a little superstar Connor is.”
That he is!
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