Like many 10 year olds, Brandon Smith was excited for Christmas and spent most of December counting down the days until the Christmas morning. When he came down with pneumonia, his mother Kerigan quickly rushed him to the doctor with hopes of a speedy recovery so that he wouldn’t be sick for this holidays. During the diagnostic tests, his doctor noticed some possible issues with Brandon’s blood work and decided to investigate further.
When the additional test results came in, doctors discovered that Brandon had a rare chromosomal abnormality called Monosomy 7, which occurs when segments or all of chromosome seven are missing. The disease is characterized by problems with the bone marrow that leads to increased risk for myelodysplastic syndrome or acute myelogenous leukemia and complete bone marrow failure. It is a difficult condition to treat, with the best chance for survival involving a bone marrow transplant as early as possible.
“I felt so sad and helpless when we found out about Brandon’s condition. Our whole lives were turned upside down in one instant. We had to airlift Brandon to UNC Hospital from Wilmington on Christmas day.” said Kerigan.
Separated from her other two children, Kerigan knew that she had to stay strong for her entire family, “I was in the hospital with Brandon but still had to think about plans for my other children. I didn’t think about where I would stay until I realized that I didn’t have anywhere to go. Thankfully, our doctors told us about the Ronald McDonald House. They treated us like family from the very first night we stayed there, and we became very close with the other families there. It is very rare to find people that understand what you’re going through like they do and that we can encourage each other and help each other stay strong. My son Brandon even became good friends with a lot of the staff. “
Kerigan and Brandon have relied on the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill throughout their journey, and returned in August after their initial stay. Kerigan says, “My child’s illness has changed everything, from our financials to my other children’s lives, but the Ronald McDonald House makes sure that I can be there for my son. This is a very special place.”