A young Aussie mum was shocked to discover the bruises on her four-year-old boy – which she thought were from energetic play – were instead warning signs of a rare, life-threatening blood disorder.
Doone Breckon noticed bruises on her son Slater’s legs in May last year and assumed they were caused by riding his bicycle.
It was only later she realised the bruises were an abnormal dark purple and had started spreading up his legs.
Doone grew even more concerned when Slater, who is now five, complained of a sore stomach, and so took him to the local doctor in their small central Queensland town of Clermont.
The alarmed doctor advised the family to rush him to the larger centre of Mackay, almost 300 kilometres away, so the Breckons left their 18-month-old daughter with their parents and set off on the start of anxious journey.
Slater Breckon, now five, had to undergo a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with a rare blood disorder
Medics there feared Slater had leukaemia, so the Royal Flying Doctor Service flew the family to Brisbane, where further testing showed he did not have leukaemia but was in fact suffering from aplastic anaemia, an extremely rare blood disorder.
The condition, which only strikes four people out of every million, prevents the bone marrow from producing new blood cells.
The family opted for Slater to receive a bone marrow transplant, which gives him a 95 per cent chance of beating his condition.
Stem cells were flown in from the best donor that could be found, a 20-year-old man from Germany. It was the first time live stem cells had been flown into Australia for a transplant since the Covid pandemic.
Meanwhile, the young family had to sort out their lives, with Slater’s father Dylan Breckon having to drive back to Clermont to pick up the couple’s 18-month daughter who had been left with grandparents.
He headed back to Brisbane with her, a round trip of 2,000 kilometres.
The operation took place in August and the family was told they would have to stay in Brisbane until at least November to ensure Slater was getting proper treatment – which involved gruelling marathon of blood transfusions, chemotherapy, tests and drugs.
‘We went to Brisbane with just $300 in our bank and we thought, “How are going to do this?”‘ Ms Breckon told Daily Mail Australia.
Slater Breckon is pictured with his dad Dylan, mum Doone and younger sister Frankie
Doone Breckon noticed bruises on her son Slater’s legs (pictured) in May last year and assumed they were caused by riding his bicycle. It was only later she realised the bruises were an abnormal dark purple and had started spreading up his legs.
‘We were just living paycheck to paycheck because we had just moved to town and Dylan just got a mining job and he had no annual leave or sick leave.’
A GoFundMe page to help the family pay for accommodation and medical expenses was set up by Ms Breckon’s boss Fiona Daley.
‘We all know and love Slater and his family – Dylan, Doone and Frankie Breckon, their big hearts and cracker personalities light up every room they enter!’ the fundraiser states.
‘As a community, we are all heartbroken and at a loss of ways we can help this beautiful family!’
Ms Breckon said the fundraiser hit its goal of raising $50,000 in just three days.
‘We were just blown away,’ she said.
Following the operation, the family received a setback in November when complications caused Slater’s kidneys to falter.
During his long rounds of treatment, Slater would recite a mantra: ‘I am strong, I am brave, I can beat the bruises!’
However, once this emergency was over, the family got the surprising but welcome news they could come home for Christmas.
‘He’s doing really well since we got home, he’s sparked up a lot,’ said Ms Breckon.
‘They [Slater and his sister] are just playing tackle on the loungeroom floor as we speak.’
The main concern following the operation is that Slater’s body could reject the new cells, known as graft-versus-host disease, but he has just passed an important milestone of 100 days without suffering the setback.
However, he is not in the clear yet.
‘We are still in that limbo area of hoping these cells kick on and hopefully his T-cells don’t take over,’ Ms Breckon said.
‘That’s always in the back of your mind and you try not to dwell on it or worry about it because life’s so short and you’ve just got to live.
‘We always tell him you’ve got to eat your veggies because broccoli boosts your red blood cells in your bone marrow.’
After a setback in November, the Breckon family received the surprising but welcome news they could go home for Christmas
Ms Breckon said the family was taking it day by day.
‘No one ever teaches you how to be a parent to a sick child,’ she said.
‘He can’t play in mud, he can’t play in sand, he’s got to wear shoes in the yard and animals are a big factor and disease transfers if they lick his skin.
‘Even touching elevator buttons. Little things like that are a massive trigger in our life.’
However, she said the family tries to stay positive and ‘just let him be a little boy’.
‘He loves his football,’ she said.
‘[He] plays with his little friends but we have to make sure he doesn’t touch them or get too close in their faces because germs could spread so easily and it could set us back again.
Slater and dad Dylan get in some guitar practice while living in Brisbane for the boy’s treatment
‘Hopefully in a year he is off all his medicines and he could go live a normal life.’
Slater, who earned the nickname ‘Moo’ after he started calling himself Moo Moo Cowboy Bracken at daycare, did have some particularly special visitors while in Brisbane.
His favourite NRL star, retired great and Maroons State of Origin coach Billy Slater, visited him in hospital and the family was also given a tour of the Broncos facilities and met the players.
He also hopes to resume his playing career when well enough with his beloved Clermont Bears.