“MUM, I don’t want to be forgotten - will people remember me?”
That was one of the last things talented teenager Naomi Ella Smith said before she lost her battle with an aggressive form of leukaemia.
Today her grieving mum speaks out for the first time, to mark the first anniversary of her daughter’s death, and make sure Naomi is not forgotten.
Naomi, aged 16, died on May 6 last year in Sheffield Children’s Hospital, just over three months after she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.
Successive rounds of chemotherapy were ineffective against the disease and the only thing that would have saved the young football star was a quick bone marrow transplant.
But Naomi, whose mixed race meant it was hard to find a matching donor, never got the transplant she needed. Her twin brother Elliot was tested but his bone marrow did not match.
Mum Emma, 43, said: “I’ve found it really hard to talk about before - but I want to speak about her now.”The young footballer, who won numerous trophies and championships with Sheffield United Community Ladies FC and trained at the Blades centre of excellence, shook the women’s football community when she died.
Her club retired her number 17 shirt and fellow pupils at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School have raised nearly £10,000 for charities in her memory.
They are organising a plaque at the school in Naomi’s memory and now Emma has started fundraising for a memorial bench to be placed on Gosforth Fields in Dronfield.
Teaching assistant Emma, of Cemetery Road, Dronfield, said: “Naomi didn’t think she was popular, but the response when she was ill was breathtaking.
“She was very sporty, clever, funny and beautiful, and she has left a big Naomi-sized gap in everyone’s lives.”
Emma will spend tomorrow watching Elliot - a keen footballer like his sister - play in a cup final for Dronfield Town FC under-18 team.
“Elliot is a very private person but this has been very hard for him,” Emma said. “They were very close.”
Naomi was diagnosed on January 26 last year.
She had a rash and a lump under her arm and was suffering pains in her shins.
Naomi was sent for blood tests to Chesterfield Royal Hospital, where doctors put her in a taxi with a nurse and sent her to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Now Emma is urging people - especially those of ethnic minorities - to come forward and donate bone marrow.
Naomi needed a donor who, like her, had one Afro-Caribbean and one white parent. “It literally is a matter of life and death,” Emma said.
n A memorial event for Naomi is planned on Sunday June 15, at Gosforth Fields Sports Association, Stubley Lane, Dronfield, from 11am.
To donate bone marrow log-on to www.anthonynolan.com or phone 020 7284 1234.