When Seb Turner’s mum Caroline Yardley applied to Satan’s Little Helper in February 2021, she had no idea it would have such life-changing consequences for her and her son.
In 2019, Caroline Yardley’s world flipped upside down. Her little boy had just been to the GP for a routine visit but was now in the Child Haematology and Oncology Unit in Christchurch hospital, hooked up to machines. Seb was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow failure called aplastic anaemia and was being given blood and platelet transfusions. Things moved very quickly after that. “We were sent to Starship Hospital in Auckland,” explains Caroline. “Ideally he’d have had a bone marrow or a stem cell transplant, but out of a global register of 36 million donors, nobody was available. “He had to undergo a chemo-type immunosuppressant treatment, which severely compromised his immune system for a long time. “You don’t have a kid thinking they’ll have a life-threatening condition and spend nine months battling to survive. It’s overwhelmingly scary.” Seb was hooked up to a transfusion for five days, eight hours a day, and wasn’t able to leave his hospital room. Once released, he was in isolation for six weeks and continued to get blood transfusions for another seven months. Caroline says that it’s important to note that Seb is not cured. “He’s in remission now. The treatment he had is not a cure. He could relapse at any time, so you’ve always got that in the back of your mind.” As a young lad who loves steaming about outdoors, playing with his mates and exploring nature, his personal lockdown was tough – explains Caroline. “We live in a new build, and between Seb being ill and some financial constraints, I wasn’t able to get the garden finished. While he was on treatment, he really didn’t have a fun, safe space outside to play because the yard was full of weeds, was dusty and had some leftovers from the build in it.” Caroline stumbled upon Satan’s Little Helper (SLH) almost by accident. “After I placed my pizza order, I saw a little Satan’s Little Helper button and decided to click on it,” she explains. SLH decided to try and help Seb out by placing an advert in NZ Landscaper Magazine calling on green-thumbed, community-minded landscapers for help in turning his garden into his own personal Eden. Readylawn managing director Roger Morgan responded and says the project quickly gathered pace. “The article about Seb really hit home, as I’ve got two boys myself,” says Roger. “I was immediately inspired to lend a hand and figured that other Canterbury Registered Master Landscaper (RML) members would feel the same, and that we could do so much more as a community. “When I brought up Seb’s situation at the next local meet-up, within five minutes we had everyone on board. It was a such a fantastic outcome!” RML members completed the build in just four days, and left Seb with an incredible place to play and be himself – complete with a sand pit, a scooter track and lots of beautiful greenery. Caroline says it has the potential to change his life for the better. “If he relapses now, he would be able to play and have some outside time that we didn’t get before. He could even play with his cousins, as long as they’re healthy. It’ll be phenomenal for his mental health.” Without the support of the following, this project wouldn’t have seen the light of day. We can’t thank them enough: Baier Group, Bunnings, Freeman Irrigation, Gill Landscapes, Greenscapes, Groundworks, Intelligro, Lincoln University, London Landscapes, Onlandscapes, Permacolour, Placemakers, Readylawn Ltd, Southern Woods Nursery, Urban Paving and Xteriorscapes.