Liam is a brave, sweet 2 and a half year old, who loves cuddles. He is the much loved son of Michelle and Ashley, and big brother to twins Aidan and Cameron. When he was three weeks old, Liam was diagnosed with epileptic encephalopathy, and is not able to do anything independently.
He has uncontrolled epilepsy, no head control, and very limited voluntary movement. Michelle feels that “we’ve been lucky that for the most part, he has been healthy and happy despite facing many challenges.”
In 2017, Michelle unexpectedly fell pregnant with twins. The twins suffered from a rare and major complication: twin to twin transfusion. Cameron incurred a severe brain injury because of this condition, and sadly, Michelle and Ashley were told that he would have similar issues to Liam. Aidan is a happy and healthy toddler, who in many ways is a big brother for Liam and Cameron.
“At Hummingbird House, we are able to do things together as a family despite different needs and abilities.”
Michelle and Ashley come from South Africa which means they do not have much support in Brisbane. So when asked what Hummingbird House means to them, Michelle was quick to answer that “it is an opportunity to recharge and regroup as a family and spend some quality time together, without having to worry about meds, feeding, changing, or bathing. We know that Liam will be well taken care of, and that we can have a good night’s sleep.”
With two boys who have high and complex care needs, Michelle highlights that it is truly the little things that make coming to Hummingbird House so worthwhile to their wellbeing. “Being here has allowed us to “take our foot off the treadmill” and just do simple things like having a nice meal together without rushing, or waking up in the morning and having a cup of coffee outside.”
Hummingbird House also offers Michelle and Ashley an opportunity to meet with other families who understand what it is like to live with and love a child with a life-limiting condition. “It is a safe space for us to connect with other families who are in a similar position to us” Michelle says.
Some of the Cage family’s favourite parts about coming to Hummingbird House are “having everything taken care of – not having to worry about cooking or cleaning. We also enjoy the music sessions, the art classes and hydrotherapy.” However, for Michelle, there is one moment that stands out.
“Liam was diagnosed with cerebral irritation in 2018 and went through an extended period of extreme irritability and pain. The twins were only a few months old and it was an extremely challenging time for us. We were close to burnout. It was also our wedding anniversary that week but due to Liam’s constant irritability we couldn’t celebrate. I arranged with Hummingbird House for a surprise anniversary dinner on the rooftop during our stay. Pauline arranged the most amazing meal, and even included some wine from South Africa! Volunteers were arranged to look after the twins for a few hours and everyone played along making sure that Ashley didn’t find out! It will always be a very special memory for us.”
When asked what matters most, Michelle replied “for us it is providing good quality of life for Liam for as long as we can, and making sure that although all three of our children have very diverse needs, we remain an inclusive and close knit family. At Hummingbird House, we are able to do things together as a family despite different needs and abilities.”