Channel 7 AFL and tennis presenter Hamish McLachlan has opened up about his daughter’s devastating battle with West Syndrome when she was a baby.
McLachlan has been hosting AFL.com’s ‘Last Time I Cried’ series, encouraging AFL players to open up and speak about their issues.
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But the tables were turned for the final interview of the series as McLachlan became the interviewee.
The veteran TV personality said he received a phone call from his wife in 2013 that changed his life forever.
McLachlan was on air covering the Australian Open at the time and was miffed that his wife Sophie had called so many times.
“I just had a heap of missed calls from Soph while I was on-air,” he told AFL.com.
“It was odd because she knows I’m on the tennis, why would she be calling. I spoke to her that night and she said ‘something is wrong with Milla’.
“She sort of has these little twitches and I can’t get her attention for hours, there is something really wrong.”
After taking Milla to a paediatrician she was diagnosed with West Syndrome.
“A guy comes in,” McLachlan said. “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 an 80 per cent chance she’ll have brain damage for life. There’s a 10 per cent chance she’ll get through unscathed.’
“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’.”
McLachlan said he picked up Milla and told Freeman “save her.”
Hamish and Sophie, along with McLachlan’s brother and current AFL CEO Gillon, had to give Milla steroids orally four times a day for the next few months, however she suffered multiple seizures throughout.
“The first time we gave her the four millilitres the screaming started, the doctor said she’ll lose her voice within 24 hours from screaming in pain,” McLachlan said.
McLachlan breaks down in heartbreaking interview
McLachlan broke down as he recounted how his brother fell apart while trying to help with Milla.
“On the fourth day, Gillon did the 7am session everyday because he’d do it on the way to work,” he said.
“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?’”
Milla suffered swelling so bad that her own brother didn’t even recognise her, and McLachlan said he feared they were losing their “amazing, beautiful, healthy child.”
But after three months Milla had responded and her brain patterns were back to normal.
After six months Milla had become part of the 10 per cent who survive, with Dr Freeman describing her as a “miracle”.
“She’s got a highlighter, she’s doing bits and pieces,” McLachlan said.
“He [Dr. Freeman] said: ‘Can I have that highlighter?’. He does a few tests and he said: ‘Your daughter is a miracle.’ 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.’”
Milla is now a happy and healthy seven years later, and McLachlan cherishes every day with her.
“You just don’t know when life is going to change, when a seemingly perfect word becomes imperfect nor when it becomes perfect again,” he said.
“When Jeremy Freeman said she’s a miracle, it’s like the journey has ended.
“Everytime I put her to bed, I think, how good you’re here. That was the last time I cried.”