Family's £150 000 gift to charity

A FAMILY from Doncaster hit by a double cancer tragedy instantly paid off a Sheffield charity appeal with a £150,000 gift.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 13th September 2007, 12:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th September 2007, 12:03 pm

Bill and Anne Wraith were devastated when leukaemia took the life of their daughter Elizabeth Jane aged just 25.

But then fate issued them a further devastating blow when 63-year-old Anne was diagnosed with a terminal form of the same illness three years later.

Yet the couple have been so moved by the care they received at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital that they have paid for the whole of The Sheffield Leukaemia and Blood Disorders Appeal with a single donation of 150,000.

The Wraith's first brush with leukaemia, a cancer of the blood, came in 2000, when daughter Elizabeth was diagnosed. The illness rapidly took its toll

Elizabeth Jane died in dad Bill's arms just three days after the illness was confirmed. She left a 17-month-old son and a husband, who now live in Peterborough.

Bill, aged 61, a retired chartered engineer from Tickhill, said: "It's extremely difficult losing your child. You never anticipate it like you may a parent or even a partner, but you have to cope, and we had a 17-month-old grandson, Alexander, who spent a lot of time with us.

"You remember all the good times you had and try to use that as a mechanism to keep on going.

"But the twist of fate was that my wife was diagnosed with leukaemia. It was very much a shock. We knew nothing of leukaemia when our daughter died, but when Anne started to be ill there were signs that maybe it was something similar.

"There were lots of things that went through our minds, like 'why us?' But the questions don't solve anything and you have to get on with life.

"There are times when you get angry when you see other people doing exactly what they want to do, but it is life and you only pass this way once, and you have to grab hold of it with both hands. My wife is a battler and she's going to live every day to the full. We don't know how long that is."

Anne has had treatment including chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and the drug Velcade, but the illness is terminal.

The couple decided to help the hospital's appeal after hearing it wanted the cash to provide facilities for patients on the ward.

They said they felt they were treated like they were the only patients the doctors had in the quality of care they received.

"We had been so impressed with the way the Hallamshire had dealt with us," said Bill. "The nurses and clinician were very professional but the environment was not so good. When we heard about the appeal, we thought about it, and decided we wanted to say thank you with the donation.

"When you've lost your daughter and your wife has the same illness, money becomes far less important. We're lucky we can afford to make the donation."

The couple are also keen for the public to be aware of the disease, which they see as having a lower profile than some other cancers.

When they were on the wards they realised there were people affected by leukaemia who looked perfectly ordinary, but were battling a crippling illness.

Head of Fundraising for the appeal, Emma Dickens, said: "We are immensely grateful for the amazing generosity shown by Mr and Mrs Wraith. To have hit our fundraising target within just six weeks is fantastic.

"Instead of closing the appeal however, and putting our feet up, we have decided that the majority of this money should be used for a project over and above our original plans. This means that we will be able to improve the care of many more leukaemia and blood disorder sufferers in South Yorkshire than previously thought.

"Therefore the Sheffield Leukaemia and Blood Disorders Appeal is still aiming to raise the money needed to fully equip the new leukaemia and blood disorders unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, but we can also now build an entirely new isolation room on the ward, where patients can stay in relative comfort following a bone marrow transplant. It is hoped that this specialist room will be a fitting and permanent tribute to their daughter."

Anyone interested in helping the charity raise the remaining money needed for all of the new equipment, can contact the fundraising team on 0114 2263555. Sponsorship opportunities are currently being developed for businesses.

The Star backs hospital's ambulance appeal