June 15, 2016
In the Hiebert family, healing is truly a family affair.
Ask Esmae Hiebert what she likes best about her dad and a big smile crosses her face. “I really like his beard,” says the 10-year-old from Wheatley, Ont. “It’s really frizzy when he kisses me goodnight.”
Esmae is looking forward to some more goodnight kisses this Father’s Day weekend.
She’s been living at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto since November with her mom, Christina, her brother, Malaki, 7, and her little sister, Faith. Ten-month-old Faith has a serious immune disorder and received a life-saving bone marrow transplant in December. When she was healthy enough to be discharged to RMHC Toronto in January, their dad, John, who had stayed with the family in Toronto for the first several months, had to return home to his job as a truck driver. After long hours hauling fresh produce all week, he joins his family most weekends at RMHC Toronto.
“He gives Faith a ride on his shoulders and then he chases us around the room,” says Esmae.
“Yeah,” adds Malaki. “Daddy’s the horse, Faith is the cowgirl and we’re the bandits!”
Healing truly is a family affair for the Hieberts.
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Malaki was born in 2009 with the same rare condition as Faith. In Malaki’s case, Esmae was the bone marrow donor.
“She saved my life,” says Malaki, in a surprising matter of fact way.
“I’m just glad I got to help my little brother,” says Esmae humbly.
The Hieberts stayed at RMHC Toronto throughout much of 2009 and parts of 2010 and 2011 while Malaki underwent two transplants and recovered. He is now doing great, so the family is hoping for the same outcome for Faith.
If all goes well, they hope to be able to go home in early fall, sometime after Faith’s first birthday.
In the meantime, the whole family is making the best of everything that RMHC Toronto has to offer.
Esmae and Malaki love the arts and crafts room and the gym. But they especially love the Tranquility Garden. Because Faith still has a very weak immune system, they can’t play with all the other kids yet. The Tranquility Garden is a safe and healthy place for them to just be kids.
RMHC Toronto is “a home away from home, somewhere to be together, to have warm meals, to have other parents to talk to, a place for siblings to have a positive place to play and somewhere to heal,” says Christina.
Through it all, she says John has “definitely been a backbone” for the family.
His favourite saying: “We’re through most of it. Let’s chug along.”
RMHC Toronto is behind the Hieberts all the way – especially this Father’s Day.
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