by Alice Mascarenhas and Catherine Wyatt
Having a baby is a “life-changing moment”, the Duchess of Cambridge has told a Gibraltarian family of a sick child. Kate was visiting the new Ronald McDonald Evelina House in London yesterday, a purpose built “home away from home”, which accommodates the families of children being treated in hospital.
She told Dion Mifsud and Danielle Debono, whose eight-month-old daughter Mia has had both kidneys removed: “For any family having a baby is a life-changing moment, but for you having to go through all that as well is extraordinary.”
Mia Mifsud was born on the Rock and was taken to the UK at just three days old, because of the rare illness autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease.
She was given just a 10% chance of living past one month.
The Duchess, who was wearing a blue Rebecca Taylor suit, marked the opening of the house by meeting the families and children that use the facilities.
Equipped with kitchens and playrooms, the £13 million home can house 59 families, and is just a five-minute walk from Evelina London Children’s Hospital.
Mia’s mother Ms Debono, 32, said her baby was now waiting for a kidney transplant, adding: “We have to wait until she weighs 10 kilos. She weighs 6.7 kilos so we are nearly there.”
The baby’s father Mr Mifsud, 40, said: “And I have to lose weight to give her mine!”
He was not joking. Mr Mifsud’s kidney is a match for his tiny daughter, and he plans to donate his to her.
He said Kate and Mia were “laughing and smiling together”, and added: “The Duchess also made it very easy for us to talk to her.”
Mr Mifsud told the Chronicle it had been the house manager who asked if they would mind if they could be the family to invite the Duchess into their room.
“We had a very pleasant meeting with her. She was well informed on Mia’s condition and asked many questions including saying that she couldn’t imagine what we had been through as when she had George all she wanted was to hold him and be with him,” he said.
The family has been at the hospital for seven months having arrived in London just three days after Mia was born.
Mr Mifsud explained they had first flown over from Gibraltar thinking Mia had a tumour in one of her kidneys.
“Once we arrived we were given the bad news that Mia had a condition called ARPKD and would only have a 10% chance of making it past one month. Luckily she did. When she was six weeks old her first kidney was removed. After this she suffered various complications one of them being her stomach shutting down,” he said.
Having spent a little over two months in intensive care she gradually improved and managed to go back to the ward. In November her second kidney was removed successfully and a PD Catheter was put in her for dialysis.
“Since then she has improved greatly and her dialysis is now working great. We will have to stay here in England until she is ready for a transplant,” he added.
During all this time the Ronald McDonald Evelina House has provided a home for the couple and baby Mia.
“We started out at Guys and then moved to Evelina in December. We also managed to spend Mia’s first night out of hospital during Christmas Eve at the house. We have now been helped by the Government of Gibraltar as dialysis for Mia cannot be done in Gibraltar, and we must stay in London for a minimum of three years until Mia is ready for a transplant. Danielle and I have been trained to look after her and do the dialysis ourselves. Hopefully I will be the donor of Mia’s kidney,” he said.
Meanwhile during her visit The Duchess watched the children decorate pancakes and biscuits, and revealed a plaque to officially mark the home’s opening.
Kate also spoke to 42-year-old mother Rebecca Bridges, whose son is in hospital after being born at 23 weeks.
Ms Bridges said the Duchess was “fantastic”. She said: “You could tell when I got overwhelmed and nearly started crying. She was quite sympathetic and she sounded quite concerned.”
Ms Bridges’ four-year-old son James asked the Duchess where George was, to which Kate replied he was at nursery.
by Alice Mascarenhas and Catherine Wyatt