Jackie Mead suffered one medical disaster after another as a baby and when Satan’s Little Helper found out about her trials and tribulations, we had to do something to put a smile on her face.
“My child was never supposed to walk or talk. Now she’s turning into the most amazing young adult. She goes to school every day she’s able and has an empathy for other people that makes me strive to be a better person.” When Susan Mead talks about her daughter Jackie, it puts a lump in your throat. It’s not so much what she says but how she says it, talking with a strength born from withstanding countless setbacks and with a resilience forged from love for her daughter, for her family and for life. Jackie is Susan’s miracle – a child that has truly been to hell and back; part of a family that would have no luck at all if they didn’t have bad luck. Born with a rare liver condition called biliary atresia, Jackie suffered a stroke and brain haemorrhage after an operation to drain bile from her liver in 2005 went wrong. Two reviews blamed medical staff for failing to administer Vitamin K, which could have prevented the catastrophic stroke that destroyed 63% of her brain capacity. That alone is devastating, but Jackie was then given a donor liver that was infected with Hepatitis B. She’s now blind in her right eye, is going blind in her left, and suffers from a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But the girl who was never supposed to walk or talk now has full speech and mobility, thanks to love and belief of her parents. Jackie’s mum and dad, Mario Moon, gave up their careers as a neurolinguistic programmer and a painter and decorator to support her and keep the family unit together. “When we brought her home from the hospital, we decided we wanted to give her the best life and that meant we’d give up our jobs and our dreams to make that happen. It has made us better people.” Despite everything, the family continues to look on the bright side of life and Susan says the sacrifices she and Mario made have paid off. “Jackie loves her life. She doesn’t ever feel like she’s missing out. We wouldn’t change a thing.” When Satan’s Little Helper heard about the Mead family’s situation, we just wanted to create some good memories, so we sent the whole crew on a wildlife adventure with Dolphin Seafaris in Tauranga. “I haven’t seen Jackie look that happy for a long time,” says Susan. “When we got on the boat, she rushed to the front, which was brilliant to see, because she’s normally a bit more reserved. She had her ‘happy place’ smile and to see that was absolutely perfect. It was a really special moment.” It’s safe to say that Jackie and her family loved the trip. “As we left the harbour, we saw some orcas and then a pod of dolphins swam up so close to us you could almost touch them. It was so precious, I’ve never seen dolphins that close up before.” Christmas can be a tough time for the family – Susan lost her mother and father in December two years ago – so the January trip was highly welcome. “We just needed to smile. We’re all so happy and thankful to HELL. Jackie told me she was happy she’s sick, because it meant she could have a day out with dolphins. I don’t often sit here with tears of joy and gratefulness in my eyes but now I do, because you created memories that are going to last forever.”