AFL commentator Hamish McLachlan has opened up on the battle he and his wife faced over their baby daughter Milla’s health scare in January 2013 in AFL.com.au series ‘The Last Time I Cried’.
McLachlan reflected on receiving the scary news from Dr Freeman in a major twist of fate.
“He looks at me and says: ‘I’m Jeremy Freeman, your daughter has West syndrome. There’s a 10 per cent chance she’ll die in hospital. There’s a 80 per cent chance she’ll have brain damage for life. There’s a 10 per cent chance she’ll get through unscathed.’
“I said: ‘What is West’s syndrome?’
“He said: ‘It’s a very rare disease, one in 2500 kids get it. Two-thirds of cases it’s a brain cancer, it’s a brain tumour, it’s a brain lesion. A third of cases it’s none of those but it is the same outcome. She’ll either die, have brain damage for life or she’ll get lucky’.
“I said: ‘What’s your name again. He said: ‘Jeremy Freeman’.
“I picked up Milla. I said: ‘This is Milla Freeman, save her.’”
Milla then underwent a 31-day steroid program which was so strong it’s not even used on animals.
McLachlan said he had to supply the steroids orally every four hours starting at 7am and concluding at 7 pm every day.
His brother and AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan played a leading hand in helping give Milla the steroids.
The seizures Milla was suffering from had a six-day window to stop or it was likely they never would.
McLachlan said the doctors warned him about the extremities this steroid brings.
“The doctor said once you give it (the steroid) to her for the first time they’ll react so badly you won’t be able to open her mouth.
“She will lose her voice in 24 hours from screaming in pain and then she’ll get an appetite bigger then yours, so you won’t recognise her in two weeks.”
“The first day, we do the first batch, she has five sets of seizures,” Hamish said.
“The second day, in the back of my mind I think six days it has got to stop, second day five sets of seizures, third day six sets of seizures.
“Then on the fourth day, Gillon did the 7am session everyday because he’d do it on the way to work.
“He grabbed Milla and said: ‘Today’s the day, she won’t have a seizure today’.
“And I remember him, I gave him Milla and went to the kitchen, got the steroid out, putting it in the syringe and by the time I got to Gill, she was having seizures in his arms.
“He was crying saying: ‘How can it happen to someone who doesn’t deserve it?’”
A month in McLachlan, admitted his daughter was barely recognisable.
“My little brother had been away, he comes into the house, Milla is playing with another daughter,” he said.
“He says: ‘Where’s Milla?’ I said: ‘She’s in the front room.’ He says: ‘No, there’s two kids in there not one of them is Milla.’ I was like: ‘That’s her.’”
“Three month check-up we see Jeremy Freeman, he does the scans, does the electrodes on the head,” he said.
“Brain patterns are back to normal. He says there’s been one case where the child has lapsed, come back at six months.
“The next three months, everyday seems like a month.
“We get to the sixth month, we go in and see Jeremy Freeman.”
“She’s got a highlighter, she’s doing bits and pieces,” he said.
“He [Dr. Freeman] said: ‘Can I have that highlighter?’.
“He does a few tests and he said: ‘Your daughter is a miracle.’
“I said: ‘What do you mean?’
“He said: ‘I’ve just done some cognitive tests three-year old children don’t pass.’
“At this point she’s 15 months. He said: ‘She’s through it. She’s the best response I’ve ever had.’
McLachlan has been hosting this series over the last few months, tackling the mental health issue among some of footballs biggest names.
It was former Swan Alex Johnson who turned the conversation back on the host asking. him the question he’d asked many brave people already: “When was the last time you cried.”
After over six months, the end of the ordeal had finally arrived.
“That’s when I started crying and really cried,” he said.
“You just don’t know when life is going to change, when a seemingly perfect word becomes imperfect nor when it becomes perfect again.
“When Jeremy Freeman said she’s a miracle, it’s like the journey has ended.
“Every time I put her to bed, I think, how good you’re here. That was the last time I cried.”