Published: Jul 13, 2021
When Haddie Merino Tamayo was two years old, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). After celebrating remission at age five, her family was devastated to learn that she relapsed soon after, at age six.
The Merino Tamayos are from Quito, Ecuador, where there was no treatment for Haddie’s type of cancer. She started chemotherapy, but it became obvious to her doctors that this wouldn’t be enough and that she would need a transplant.
Her family sprang into action- researching options for Haddie’s treatment, and writing letters to different foundations and programs, all in the hopes of finding a way for Haddie to get the care she needed. To make things more complicated, the timing aligned with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Merino Tamayos felt defeated. “Haddie went through chemo in August, September, and October- but there were no changes- and doors kept closing for us- especially because of COVID,” says Haddie’s mom Patricia.
When the family finally heard from Nemours Global Health Services Department that Haddie could go to Delaware for treatment, it seemed like a miracle- and also a whirlwind of changes. They found out the good news on a Friday and left Ecuador in less than a week. Because Haddie’s little brother Harry was a newborn, the family made the trip separately- Haddie and her Dad Henry arrived first in October 2020, followed by her Mom and one-month-old Harry in November.
Patricia shares, “Henry is very strong and brave. He grabbed his luggage and left to the complete unknown. He is strong for all of us.” Likewise, Henry shared his appreciation for the strength of his wife by saying, “My daughter was in treatment for Leukemia while her mom was bringing life into the world. I truly admire her for doing everything. She had a C-section, but was still doing everything she could to care for Haddie, and taking care of a newborn.” The fall of 2020 was certainly a very busy time for the Merino Tamayos, but when they came to the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware, they began to feel a sense of peace.
Referred again by Nemours Global Health Services Department, the family settled into the House and began to feel relief and comfort throughout the chaos by spending time together. “Back home, we would all be separate, one person running errands, one person working, all just doing our own things- but here, we are always able to be together. We feel a closeness that we didn’t feel before,” shares Henry.
Although the Merino Tamayo family arrived during the height of COVID restrictions at the House, as time went on and spring arrived, the family felt the hope of change. “We will never forget the day the sunroom opened!” they share, recalling when the popular area of the House was opened for families to use on a reservation basis, “When the room opened, we reserved it and we had so much fun! For a moment, we forgot about the world and just enjoyed each other’s company. We played, and we laughed.”
The weather started to get warmer and the family recalls another bright memory- when it was finally nice enough outside to play soccer in the backyard. Haddie recalls, “It was so much fun!”
In addition to spending time together as a family, they also made new friends and learned from new experiences. “Everywhere we have been here, we have found that people are good from the heart,” Henry shares, telling a story about when a stranger paid for their breakfast at a local restaurant. Seeing the light in others also led to new friendships. “I have learned so much from Haddie, but also from the other kids here,” Henry shares, “Instead of comparing materialistic things- like what toys they have- they share their experiences- like what kind of treatments they are going through.”
Patricia says that Haddie was able to find someone at the House who was just like her. “She feels normal here. She has someone who understands her.”
“My first friend here was Emma,” Haddie shares, “I also have Leah and Margee!” Haddie also loves a lot of other things about staying at the House, “I like being here a lot. I like the park. The sunroom is my favorite!” she says.
The Merino Tamayos expressed their gratitude for the House, saying that the alternative would have been not getting Haddie the life-saving transplant she needed. Patricia shares, “[Without the House], we wouldn’t have been able to come. We wouldn’t have been able to cure Haddie. I don’t even want to think of it.”
They also share that to them, the House means peace. Dad shares “If I had to describe the House in one word, it would be peace.” Mom agrees and says, “It gave us the peace of mind of knowing we could be together.”
Looking to the future, the Merino Tamayos are hoping to return home to Ecuador when they can. “We can’t wait to return home with our luggage full of hopes and dreams, and with both children in our arms and healthy.”
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