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Builders Back Jessica’s Fightback From Leukaemia

June 27, 2012

EIT tutors and local builders teamed up to give Jessica and family a warm welcome when they return to their Napier home.

EIT carpentry tutors and local builders have put their muscle into helping a “very brave” Napier youngster battling an aggressive form of leukaemia.

Six year-old Jessica Hermansen has been in Auckland’s Starship Hospital since being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia at Christmas.  Her mother, Joanna Monteith, and father, Lorne Hermansen, have given up their jobs to be with their daughter as she undergoes aggressive chemotherapy.

The treatment will mean that when the family, including Jessica’s four-year-old brother Lucas, return to Hawke’s Bay, quite possibly next month, Jessica’s immune system will be at a low ebb.

Keen to show their support in a practical way, the Hawke’s Bay region of Certified Builders Association of New Zealand stepped in with an offer to boost the insulation in the family’s home in Shackleton Street, Maraenui. 

Last Friday (June 22), builders and tutors gave up regular work time to reline walls with new batts and restore rooms by installing new gib, architraves, skirtings and scotia.   

“We wanted to help Jessica make a good recovery by creating an environment that will be as  healthy and warm as possible,” says Lans Hasselman, the president of Certified Builders for Hawke’s Bay.

The project attracted “a fantastic response” from members and associate members happy to lend a helping hand.  The 20 or so volunteers included seven EIT carpentry tutors who didn’t have teaching commitments that day.

While nothing is certain, grandparents Brian Monteith and Margie Griffiths say Jessica is heading in the right direction in fighting the cancer.

Brian says she has now regained her appetite and, with her immunity bouncing back, she will be able to join her family staying in Auckland’s Ronald McDonald House later this week.

“It’s day-to-day stuff,” Margie says, “but the progress the medical world has made in treating the disease has been phenomenal over the last 10 years.  Jessica has been a very brave little girl, showing amazing courage to fight 24/7 for the past six months.”

The medical team originally sought a bone marrow transplant for Jessica but couldn’t find a match in Europe so have instead used stem cells from an umbilicus put into frozen storage in Alaska 10 years ago. 

Hawke’s Bay’s Certified Builders has previously supported the community with other projects undertaken for Cranford Hospice, the New Zealand Fire Service, the Weka Point Scout Camp at Rissington and the Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand.