Three-year-old Isaac Tai lives by the beach, but a 2020 leukaemia diagnosis means he’s missed out on a lot – including swimming lessons! To give him some new skills and enhance his personal development, Satan’s Little Helper stepped in.
It’s been a long journey for Isaac and his family. It started in September 2020, when he picked up a nasty case of tonsillitis. “He struggled to shake it off,” recalls his mum Rata. “We thought it was because he’d just started day care, which is a complete germ factory!” It turns out Isaac’s body was struggling because he had cancer. “Eventually one of the teachers came up to me and said Isaac’s skin colour looked a bit off and recommended that we get a blood test done.” After a trip to the doctor, Isaac was referred to paediatrics. “He was given a blood transfusion and sent to Starship, where they formally diagnosed him with leukaemia. He didn’t leave the hospital for two months and, as parents, you end up living in a twilight zone.” Isaac was diagnosed during a crucial phase in his development. Due to his isolation, he missed out on a lot of socialising and his development suffered. It also meant he couldn’t learn more practical skills. “We live by the beach for a reason! We love it and we spend a lot of time there. Isaac loves it too, but his confidence with the water is completely beyond his ability in the water,” Rata laughs. So, what do you do for an immu-compromised little man who needs a skill boost, some extra socialisation but can’t be around larger groups of germ-laden folk? Private swimming lessons of course, which Satan’s Little Helper was happy to provide. “The fact that we can do it privately gives us huge confidence that Isaac will be safe from any viruses that are out there as any infection means a trip to the emergency department. It’s also a relief knowing he’s getting normal experiences and interactions in a safe environment.” As well as keeping Isaac safe, Rata says interacting with an instructor one-on-one has been beneficial. “We’ve noticed a huge difference in his communication ability, as well as how he listens to instructions and takes them on board. He never used to ask or answer questions, even six months ago, but now he’s more comfortable with it.” Isaac is also less frustrated, because his communication skills have improved so much, plus he’s having a whale of a time in the water! “His swimming is going really well! He’s learning how to control his breath, so we should have him diving for mussels and paua soon,” Rata jokes. “But seriously, we’re so happy to see his progression with swimming. It’s fun for him. He loves it so much that he cries when it’s time to get out of the pool! As soon as a lesson is over, he’ll ask me non-stop when the next one is.” Isaac has had two years and three months of chemotherapy, lumbar punctures and isolation. He’s coming to the end of his treatment, but he won’t be back to ‘normal’ for another two years. Giving him a safe space to learn new things, increase his development and have fun is an important step on his road to recovery, and one that’ll set him up for the future.