Cody was only five years old when his mother, Nesha, faced a health crisis that necessitated a number of stays in hospital. Seriously ill, Nesha would be there for three to four days at a time, and her children witnessed both the difficulties she was experiencing and the uncertainties of the hospital environment.
"Now I understand the need for the support Kenzie's Gift offers and how important it is for children to have access to it."
After enduring two dangerous but life-saving operations, Nesha was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 33. She began a three-month course of chemotherapy and became very ill at times during her treatment. There was much coming and going from home to hospital, even emergency trips at night, and it was a very traumatic time for the whole family.
Nesha and her husband have three children - a 16 year old, an 11 year old and the youngest, Cody, now 7 years old. At the time his Mum was in and out of hospital, Cody seemed to be coping well with the ups and downs associated with Nesha's illness and treatment. It wasn't until the family began to recover and things were settling down that Cody started to have problems.
Cody began displaying anti-social behaviour at school. The standard of his schoolwork began to drop. He spent much of his time alone, socially isolated from the other children and alarm bells began to ring loudly for his teachers when he became angry and upset in the playground and classroom. At first it was thought Cody might have a learning disability so the school arranged for him to be assessed. However it was soon apparent that a learning problem was not the cause of his emotional issues.
Cody would have regular 'meltdowns' when Nesha went for her follow up medical appointments. "He didn't know how to return to normal," she says, "and he was worried I might not come back from my appointments."
Nesha was having some counselling at the Cancer Society to help with her own recovery. She mentioned Cody's behaviour and the counsellor referred her to Kenzie's Gift. "I felt I was to blame for Cody's behaviour because I had put him through this so we went to Kenzie's Gift right away. After one session, Kenzie's Gift Child Psychotherapist Lorna Wood diagnosed Cody with stress and anxiety, and after more sessions with her, I was amazed at the difference we could see in him. Lorna also guided us as parents, so we could then work with the school to determine what the stressors were. It was a real team effort and an amazing network."
Lorna was a constant presence for both Cody and Nesha throughout the therapy process. "We saw Lorna for almost a year. She was always there. She would call, leave messages, give advice. Cody needed that constant support from her and she has been a lovely friend to us."
Cody initially saw Lorna every week but towards the end of his therapy time, sessions took place every two weeks. "Things are coming right now," says Nesha. "We have a plan for the future, we're all working together and Cody is getting better. I'm having fewer hospital visits now so that is really helping. His schoolwork is picking up too." The family will celebrate Cody's 8th birthday in September.
Nesha said she would like to meet Nic Russell, founder of Kenzie's Gift and thank her personally. "I am in awe of her, all she has gone through and been able to achieve since. When I had cancer there was plenty of support for me but little for my husband and children. The impact on them has been huge and I'm glad Kenzie's Gift was there to help us."
She admits she and her husband had underestimated the impact her illness had on Cody. "Lorna guided us and helped us to understand. We certainly wouldn't be where we are today if it hadn't been for the help we received from Kenzie's Gift, both for ourselves and Cody. "
During the course of the therapy, Lorna discovered Cody's love of music. "He's going to have music lessons soon. It's such a good outlet for him. He also enjoyed the art they did together and working on a folder of pictures and photos. He was very comfortable going to see Lorna and we know he can go back if he needs to in the future. It was a safe place for him where he could say whatever he wanted."
Nesha realised that if she hadn't received help for Cody at this critical time, he might have suffered from the trauma well into his teenage years and possibly for longer. "I fully endorse the early intervention message. Alot of young children have seen things they should never have seen but Cody has a deep level of understanding now. I had to make things right again and Cody is slowly getting back to the little boy he was and that's just awesome."
Cody's school has also benefited from Kenzie's Gift. Teachers there are now more aware of the signs of potential difficulties and are better prepared to care for children experiencing problems at school.
"I never thought about any of this until I got cancer," said Nesha. "Now I understand the need for the support Kenzie's Gift offers and how important it is for children to have access to it."