Sports presenter Hamish McLachlan has broken down while recalling his little girl’s fight for life with a rare brain disease and his desperate plea to doctors to save her.
The broadcaster was headlining Channel Seven’s 2013 Australian Open tennis coverage when he and his wife Sophie received the devastating news their miracle baby girl Milla had West Syndrome.
As host of AFL‘s recent ‘Last Time I Cried’ podcast series, the tables turned on McLachlan for the final episode in a heartbreaking interview that left both him and guest interviewer, former Sydney Swans star Alex Johnson, in tears as he relived every parent’s worst nightmare.
McLachlan still remembers the night in January 2013 when he called his frantic wife back after countless missed calls from her while he was live on air with the tennis coverage.
Milla was Hamish and Sophie McLachlan’s miracle baby conceived through IVF. Milla is pictured before she was a diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening brain disease
‘She said, there’s something wrong with Milla. She sort of has these little twitches and I can’t get her attention for hours, there is something really wrong’,’ McLachlan recalled.
They went to the paediatrician, whose face turned white when she saw footage of eight-month-old Milla’s twitching and ordered the McLachlans to go to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital immediately.
Two hours later in the hospital waiting room, they still had no idea what was wrong with Milla, whose tiny head had been fitted with 37 electrodes.
The neurologist walked in with the diagnosis that would rock their world.
‘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”,’ McLachlan recalled.
‘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 picked up Milla. I said: ”This is Milla Freeman, save her”.’
Hamish McLachlan broke down as he recalled his baby girl’s fight for life seven years ago
Milla was the McLachlan’s miracle baby conceived on the couple’s third attempt to have a child through IVF.
They were unsure Sophie would be able conceive naturally after she was involved in a serious car accident prior to meeting her husband.
‘And so, as a sort of naive parent you sort of think it’s all done, there’s nothing that can happen that can take her away from us,’ McLachlan said.
More devastating news was to come.
As part of her gruelling treatment, Milla had to be given steroids four times a day so potent they aren’t given to animals.
Her parents were warned Milla would react so badly to it the first time, she wouldn’t open her mouth again and would scream so much she’d lose her voice in 24 hours.
The McLachlans were told their baby’s seizures would either stop after six days or they would continue.
Baby Milla was fitted with 37 electrodes as doctors tried to work out what was wrong
The harrowing days that followed would even break McLachlan’s brother, Gil, who is now the AFL chief executive.
‘On the fourth day, Gillon did the 7am session everyday because he’d do it on the way to work,’ his brother Hamish recalled.
‘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”?’
Thankfully, Milla’s seizures eventually stopped and her brain patterns had returned to normal at her three month scan.
At her six month scan, Dr Freeman hailed 15-month-old Milla as a miracle – and one of the 10 per cent who recovered without further complications.
Hamish and Sophie McLachlan went through two unsuccessful rounds of IVF before Milla was conceived on the third attempt
‘He said, ”I’ve just done some cognitive tests that three-year old children don’t pass”, McLachlan said.
”She’s through it … She’s the best response I’ve ever had to this disease”.
‘That’s when I started crying and really cried. You just don’t know when life is going to change, when a seemingly perfect word becomes imperfect nor when it becomes perfect again.’
Today, Milla is happy and healthy eight-year-old who has a younger sister Indi and brother Lex.
‘Every time I put her to bed, I think, how good you’re here. That was the last time I cried,’ McLachlan said.
Milla (right), pictured with her parents and baby sister Indi in 2016 is one of the lucky ones