Life at Starship

When we arrived up at the Star ship at 11pm at night on the 25th October (one month after Joshuas 4th Birthday)  we were scared, apprehensive and in shock. At that stage we had no idea of the new life, new communities and wonderful people that we were all about to meet. I think it’s now time to tell that story. [Mike]

 The following day we woke up, I was the lucky one where one of the nice nurses let me sleep on one of the hospital beds at the end of the hall. Annemarie had slept next to Joshua and Nana on a chair with her head rested on the end of the bed.

We are not the only ones……………..

In the morning, next to us in bed was a little girl called Olivia Her mum and dad was Kirsty and Dave and we soon learnt that they had a sick little girl and had been regular visitors to ward 26A for many years. Kirsty was kind enough to take me for a walk that first morning and she explained to me what emotions I would be going through, how other parents handle cases like this and how parents tended to interact. Kirsty showed me the local amenities such as the shops at level 5 at the Auckland hospital, and the best coffee shop in Auckland hospital which is located on level 3 atrium. This little chat and walk was great for me, as she gave me a semi heads up as it were. It was also the start of meeting other families and parents up in Ward 26A and sharing stories and comforting each other and it really did bring parents together on a level playing field. We made us realize that we were not the only ones up here having receiving a massive kick in the guts in life.  

Ronald Mc Donald House…………………..

I guess this leads to the part where after the first night we are all of a sudden thinking shit we could be up here for weeks or even months. That survival instinct kicks in, where will we stay? Will the family be broken up?

Have you ever been standing at Mac’ers (McDonalds) waiting for that Big Mac, chips and that happy meal for the kids and you look down and see a coin box. Yep! I am guilty too! I used to look at these coin boxes thinking this money would go into a black hole for administrators trying to get a few dollars to some charity off shore.

Well I can safely report that New Zealanders live in a extremely generous and lucky country and that a majority of this money goes to RMHA (Ronald McDonald House Auckland). And I seriously need to try and explain what this accommodation is like and all the wonderful people involved in the operation of these houses.

Getting back to the story we were relieved to find out that we would staying in one of the Ronald McDonald houses and told please don’t worry about your accommodation or your family being broken up, what a feeling of relief. 

The three housing Clusters………………

There are three housing clusters here. One is the main house which is off to the side of the Starship hospital. This can house up to 50 families. There are about three levels and has two massive kitchens. There is a play area for kids and this is also where Daniel goes to School. I will come back to Daniels school soon.

The next housing cluster is on Level 3 in Star Ship hospital. This one takes about 13 families but my understanding its primarily for small families or mums and dads where their kids are in Starship or Auckland hospital NICU as the rooms are designed small.

But the cool thing about this complex that it has a massive family lounge with a very large kitchen. This is a place where we can go for a coffee, have some lunch, or just a place to sit down with some visitors and have a catch up. All food including lunch is provided by all these wonderful people and businesses and two of the key ladies in this lounge co-coordinating and cooking food is Bridget and Christine. The food ranges from scones to stews, soup, salads to food left over from the local muffin break from the day before. Some local businesses and organizations donating food and items are Auckland city mission, Hubbard’s for breakfast food, Foodstuffs, Delmar and Ecolab. This lounge has a million dollar view looking over the Auckland city . For me personally I have had a few moments in the first few weeks when I was rather sleep deprived I would find myself alone and next thing legs dangled over one of the many two seaters there catching some sleep (zzzzzzz) in the sun. This is has been our mid day haven. 


Welcome to Grafton Mews……..

I can’t remember who was on duty when we arrived at the third Ronald McDonald accommodation cluster. Everything at the start was a haze. But I do know the 3 main wonderful ladies that man the desk are Jackie (Grafton Mews Mrg), Jean and Jamie. And this place is amazing. I don’t ever want to hear anybody whining about the New Zealand hospital health system. When the chips are really down and there is a genuine family crisis thank god we live in New Zealand.

 Grafton Mews is from what I understand is the latest of the RMDA projects and currently offering 18 families accommodation. This place is about a 500m walk down the Grafton Road hill so it’s a steep  little walk to the hospital but its great exercise. The building its self is 4 stories high and level one has the reception and massive open shared kitchen. There is a family lounge and outside kid’s playground. The RMDA admin team is based on a wing here and the plan is to raise enough funding to add more family rooms to the complex. My understanding is that the infrastructure is here but when they have the funding they can start the revamp. 

The room which we stay in is semi open plan with a cupboard in the middle offering a partition and adding to the plentiful storage space.  There is a queen bed and a couple of single beds and we of course have a cot for Georgia. There is a lovely modern bathroom and overall it reminds us of the new Motel that my brother and sister n law, Richard and Clare brought in Hamilton. “Argent Motor Lodge”. The only thing that it does not have is a kitchen. Basically no eating or drinking in these rooms which is totally understandable and fair enough. There is a 32” TV hanging off the wall and with about 9 channels to of which Sky TV has donated. Thanks Sky TV!

Each morning there is a pile of New Zealand heralds that you can take for the day and there are a real nice selection of breads and as mentioned above Hubbard’s cereal for breakfast. There’s no leaving the house hungry, thirsty or broke. There is a wonderful team of cleaners that seem to take turns at each of the houses but they are all happy and obliging and the place is absolutely spotless. I guess at the end of the day there are a lot of kids with weak immune systems so it is important to keep as many germs as possible away.

There are washing machines and dryers on each level and the towels are changed each late morning.

In the kitchen we have a freezer, fridge and pantry space to store food so we can cook a family meal on the nights when no one is cooking for you. That’s right! Some nights our meals are cooked for us.

People lining up to cook – Who does that?

 About one or twice a week we have these volunteers come in and cook meals for families staying at the Ronald McDonald house. Talking to the girls they say that there are companies and organizations queuing up wanting to come in and provide and cook meals for families here. Tonight was a such night. The company in tonight was Lion Co. Stfan the team leader had a bunch of lady co workers and we had a beautiful main meal followed through with an awesome crumbled apple pie and ice cream.

One of the Maori families here had elder and stood up and thanked Lion Co for the meal and the generosity. It was truly lovely the he spoke from his heart in Maori and English and mentioned how we are all from different races and back grounds but it does not matter as its the kindness and generosity of people helping people in need that brings us all together in a special way. And every word that man spoke was the truth and was how I exactly felt.

 Each time these companies or community groups come in I always make a point of thanking them, telling them they are wonderful and then asking them why. It seems to be the same old reasons. Wanting to help people in need, wanting to help families who have have had a cruel blow occur to them and it’s good for their team moral and makes them all feel that they have done good in the community. I guess some companies would spend hundreds on employee dinners and booze as a team bonding exercise, while others “as it seems” will use the funds to cook half the day and feed families with very sick children and in the mean time gain more team satisfaction and rewards. Well I’m not going to judge but I’m certainly grateful and impressed. Thank you very much to those companies and community organizations. You all deserve a metal but I would imagine you wouldn’t accept one any way. 

I think if it wasn’t for the reason why we are here and the fact that there is no pool or beach nearby then it would be a great holiday spot. If RMH were on trip advisor, they would will certainly be at the top of the list in Auckland.

These guys (RMH, Staff, volunteer, teachers, admin staff) are all wonderful people and thank you from the Gallaghers and other families that we have meet on this journey so far. You guys help us to have a as normal life possible.

I just also wanted to add the link to the wonderful businesses and organizations that is the backbone to this RMH organization. It will only take you a sec to check these guys out.


Yes Daniel you must go to school!! I think he thought it was going to be a holiday up here. Daniel has been going to school which is located at the main Ronald McDonald house.  I think there are about 5 – 10 students each day and Marion is the main teacher and she has an awesome team around her giving the students a real high quality teaching session. Marion’s assistant is Jocelyn is great and they also have a team of volunteers that come in. One volunteer called Julie has been there for 4 years. Daniel has been really lucky, he is getting a lot of one on one teaching and I can already see the improvements in reading and Math’s. I think his teacher back home in Rotorua; Mrs Andrews will be pleased with the improvement that he is making.

School starts at 10am then we pick him up at 12 where we go and have some lunch at level 3 lounge. School then resumes at 1:30pm and then finishes again at 2:45pm. Although the hours do seem a little short I think the quality and one on one is making up for that. Daniel has this little problem where when left alone tends to wonder of in a dream world and lose focus. Marion and the team are really working on this and we are trying to read 3 books a night with him. So over all it is a great little school. And if it wasn’t for this school our family would potentially be separated.

Ok there has been some other perks being at this exclusive school. Daniel has meet Valerie Adams and held the gold metal, and the black socks were also here the other day, we just got a txt this morning saying that he was on the news (Campbell Live). The students all had a question to ask. Daniels question was, What is the trophy like? And on Wednesday afternoons they all take a ride to a place call Youth Town which is like a gymnasium where the kids can vent of some energy. 

Georgia in the mean time is floating around with mum and dad. Normally Nana as well but she had to go home last week. And we have finally brought up our new German Au Pair; Suzanne. For those of you that are not aware, we have a nanny (Au Pair) come and stay with us for an year at a time so we can run our busy motel. . It was unfortunate that the week that Joshua was diagnosed with this awful tumor, it was also suppose to be Suzanne’s start day. She had been stuck down at the motel helping our wonderful staff at the business. Suzanne has been here for 4 days and settling in ok in this new crazy new life of ours.  Just getting back to Georgia for a sec, back home at the motel while waiting for our new Au Pair to arrive we were guilty of letting her watch probably a little to much TV, due to the busy business. Up here she is watching bugger all TV, its just one big social life up here and there is plenty of people rolling out the red carpet for her. Georgia is having great time!

Ronald Mc Donald house has a motto “We keep families together” and they consider  their impact to be “ Families who remain together with their hospitalized children are better placed to find strength and cope”.

I hope next time you look at at that coin box when you’re buying that mac’ers burger you might find a little change floating around and reach out!

This is our mid day haven - Level 3 Star Ship hospital
Rex at the ktchen making a cup of coffee.
Probably not the best photo of the view, it certainly is a pleasant one on a nice day. This is off course from Level 3 again.
Daniels class with the lovely Marion on the left.
Dinner at Grafton Mews with Stfan and the team from Lion Co in the back ground.
Coffee with Kim @ level 3 atrium. Kim is a regular visitor which we both love, Kim always demands a great coffee on her visit!

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Bridget Pirie | Reply 29.03.2013 07.55

Great post, Mike. And I must mention the Rotorua Ron McD retreat when Joshua is feeling better. It is the most amazing place.

Paula N | Reply 28.03.2013 11.55

I was so, so saddened to hear your news. You are all in our thoughts & Prayers, God Bless. PS: My kidlets LUV how the playground turned out! Hugs from Gizzyxx

Susanna Olivier | Reply 02.01.2013 12.16

Hi guys, We keep you in our prayers! Be strong and hang in there! Thank you for sharing

Jan | Reply 01.12.2012 20.38

Hi, I am Jan, Toni's aunty. We have a chain of prayers keeping Joshua upheld. God bless you all and keep you strong, thru all this episode in your lives! Luv

Annemarie 01.12.2012 23.38

Thank you so much jan, it means so much that people that don't even know us are praying for us. It really restores my faith.

Toni | Reply 29.11.2012 20.41

This is great. Knowing that life is continueing with as much normality as you can get in such circumstances is great. Really warms the heart. Thanks for sharing

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13.07 | 21:33

Hi Anne-Marie - I found out about all this following a link someone liked on FB. I think of you all often. You brightened my life xxxxxx to you all.

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That was and amazing story so pleased you are all doing well Kind Regards Sandra Rohrlach

08.03 | 17:48

Well done to all. Annemarie I did send a friends request on FB for "Josh updates" a couple of days ago(Mike Wish) but no reply.
Cheers to all from WA

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