Submitted Ayla McCallum, left, and Madi Jones enjoy the fall weather before Madi was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a life-threatening immunodeficiency disease.
Ayla McCallum is going above and beyond to help her friend Madi Jones get healthy enough to return to school.
The two 10-year-olds have been inseparable since kindergarten, but it came to end on Feb. 13 when Madi was admitted to the Hospital for Sick Children with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a life-threatening immunodeficiency disease.
HLH has left Madi with a damaged immune system and unable to return to Hillcrest Public School.
Constant travel and expensive medications have also left the family struggling.
"We started it to raise money for her and to pay for her medications and everything she needs to stay healthy," Ayla said. "For my 11th birthday party (April 7), instead of bringing me presents, I asked everyone to bring money (to donate) to her."
After more than a month of around-the-clock medical treatment in hospital, Madi was released on Sunday, but a high fever forced her back to Sick Kids on Wednesday afternoon.
McCallum started the Madi's Mission fundraiser to help offset the cost of medications, which can be close to $900 every two months.
"Some of the medications she has to take aren't covered," said Ayla's mother, Deanne.
"We really want Madi's Mission to help with that because it will still be about eight months to a year of going back and forth from hospitals,"she added.
HLH can affect people of all ages, resulting in fevers, an enlarged spleen, low blood count, liver abnormalities and swelling on the brain which can contribute to neurological problems.
While in hospital, Madi received numerous blood transfusions and is undergoing chemotherapy, which requires her to frequently visit Sick Kids and Barrie's Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.
"I see her maybe a few times a week," Ayla said. "I ask her how she's doing and if she's hurting anywhere, but usually it's no (pain)."
The McCallums have set up a trust fund at TD Canada Trust in hopes of getting support from the Barrie-area community.
"She was taken back to the hospital this afternoon (Wednesday) when a fever started getting to high," Deanne said.
"It makes me want to cry. She's been through so much."
If released from hospital again, Madi will have to home schooled for the duration of the year to allow her immune system to get stronger.
Madi's mother, Kelly, is nine months pregnant and worried about how she will care for her daughter when the baby is born, Deanne said.
"Kelly has been off work and when this happened and she isn't on maternity leave yet," Deanne said. "It won't be until the middle of April that her benefits start."
Hillcrest school has started a fundraiser of its own asking teachers, parents and visitors to the school to donate to the Jones family.
Donations will be accepted at any TD Bank to account 6434915, or at the school.
"It's been almost two months of no financial help, so we've all chipped in to help them out," Deanne said.
"Madi is such a smart as a whip kind of girl and it's nice to see her personality come out."