A six-year-old Sheffield boy who battled an aggressive form of cancer has been honoured for his immense courage.
Brave schoolboy Heath Davenport, of Psalter Lane, Sharrow, lost his right eye after he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma at just two-years-old, after his worried parents noticed something wasn't quite right.
The news was a devastating blow to mum Charlotte and dad Andy. Their world had come crashing down.
Surgeons had to act fast and had no other choice but to remove Heath's eye in order to save his life.
But after countless trips to the hospital for checks-ups, the courageous little boy has been given a special award. In recognition of his outstanding bravery, Heath has been named a CHECT Champion by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust.
Courageous Heath even stood up in front of his class and explained why he has a 'special eye' and answered questions from curious classmates.
Heath's health battle started just after his second birthday after his parents noticed something wrong with his eye.
A GP prescribed antibiotics for suspected conjunctivitis. But when the symptoms didn't improve, they went back to the surgery and another GP referred them to Sheffield Children's Hospital.
Mum Charlotte, 37, said: “We didn’t have a clue that it would be anything sinister and even when we were at the hospital waiting for the test results, we assumed it would be something quite straightforward.
"The diagnosis came completely out of the blue and we were totally unprepared. When they took us into a room and told us that Heath had cancer it was like the world had come crashing down. It was the biggest shock I have ever experienced.”
Heath was referred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, one of two specialist centres for retinoblastoma in the UK, where doctors explained that the tumour was so big, the only option was to remove Heath’s eye as soon as possible.
The surgery went well and he was able to go home two days later.
Charlotte said: “It was such a relief when Heath recovered from his operation so quickly. He had to get used to his artificial eye which was a real challenge because he was so young but he has learned to cope with it brilliantly."
Heath then had to attend hospital appointments every six weeks and gets used to wearing an artificial eye, which needs to be checked and cleaned regularly.
But despite all he’s been through, the little boy has 'never once complained' and is said to be living life to the full – taking part in lots of different sports, painting and playing with his little brother Arlo, two.
Mum Charlotte said: “We are so proud of how Heath has adapted to having a ‘special eye’. He has never complained, never gets sad or embarrassed, never uses it as an excuse and never lets it stop him from doing anything.
“We were especially proud when his teacher asked him if he would like to discuss his special eye with the rest of the class. He took it all in his stride as usual and was brave enough to answer the questions that his classmates had for him. We can’t tell you how proud we are of how resilient and brave he has been – he truly is such a courageous boy.”
“Heath just gets on with life. He is such a character – he is cheeky as anything and has a great sense of humour. He is so caring and kind, he loves his little brother Arlo and he has so many hobbies and interests. He has just started playing five-a-side football with his dad every Saturday which he loves. He really is admirable.”
Around one child a week is diagnosed with retinoblastoma in the UK. Symptoms can be very subtle and children often appear well, which means it can go unnoticed for some time. Signs include a white glow in a child’s eye, seen in dim lighting or in a photo when a flash has been used, a squint and a red, sore or swollen eye with no sign of infection.
Patrick Tonks, Chief Executive of CHECT, said: “Children affected by retinoblastoma can face disruption, upset and often distressing treatment, not to mention follow-on check-ups.
Many children, like Heath, also have to adapt to wearing an artificial eye.
“We are delighted to recognise the courage, resilience and resourcefulness shown by Heath. He really is a thoroughly deserving champion.”