Dequarn Harrison - smiling his way back to health
18 Feb 2011
Four-year-old Dequarn Harrison was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2009. Read about his courageous journey here
When you ask Dequarn Harrison what his favourite toys are, he responds with an unusual answer - his “doctors bag.” His reply is almost certainly a reflection of the journey the brave South Auckland four year old has been on since he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2009.
Dequarn’s mother, Wai Harrison, took him to their local doctor after she noticed he was bruising easily and “red spots” were appearing on his body. Their doctor referred Dequarn to Middlemore hospital for further testing. Initially the doctors thought Dequarn had meningitis; however when the results came through the doctor told the family there was good news and bad news. The good news was that Dequarn didn’t have meningitis. The bad news was that Dequarn had leukaemia.
“It was the most shocking day of my life. It was devastating news, I burst into tears,” says Putti, Dequarn’s grandmother. Dequarn’s grandfather Terry was also shocked and rushed to the hospital to be with Dequarn. “When we got to the hospital Dequarn had all these hoses coming out of him and was puffed up like a little cherry, but he still smiled when he saw us.” After diagnosis Dequarn began treatment and it has not been an easy journey for him. Side effects of his treatment have at times caused muscle problems making walking challenging.
Hair loss, a side effect of chemotherapy, was an unusually devastating for Dequarn and his family. Dequarn has Maori and Cook Island heritage and as part of the Cook Island culture children will not have their hair cut until the family have a hair-cutting ceremony. Prior to being diagnosed, Dequarn had long, curly hair which he wore in a plait. He had never had his hair cut. After his hair started to fall out the family made the difficult decision to cut it short. “It was heartbreaking to watch him lose all his beautiful hair,” says Putti. Dequarn’s hair is now starting to grow back and the family couldn’t be happier. “I got a big thrill in seeing his hair growing,” says Putti. It is fitting that Dequarn’s favourite bead is the one he received for hair loss, which has an image of a face with curly hair.
Dequarn is now on maintenance treatment and has collected 625 Beads of Courage throughout his journey.
Feeling more and more like his usual cheerful self, Dequarn’s family recently received the positive news from his doctor that he can attend school this year. His family is proud of the courage he has shown throughout his journey and the medical terminology he has picked up. “He could be a doctor himself now,” comments Terry.
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