Olivia Frain was just 14 weeks old when her parents took her for a routine health visit.
She hadn’t been unwell and wasn’t displaying any symptoms that caused her parents any concern, but the health visitor was worried she looked pale, so sent them to Sheffield Children’s Hospital for some blood tests.
“Within a couple of hours, the floor fell out of our world,” said mum Samantha, aged 31.
“It was very surreal, terrified doesn’t even cover it.”
Olivia was diagnosed with infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), which affects just 13 children under the age of 12 months in the UK per year, and soon after, began the first of three rounds of chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, following a bone marrow transplant, she became even more ill with the most severe form of graft versus host disease (GvHD), extending her stay in hospital from six weeks to six months.
“The ward, the staff and the team are incredible. We literally owe Olivia’s life to them,” said Samantha.
“You could see the pride in their face as she started walking for the first time. They feel it too as they’ve been there every step of the way.
“They have an incredible ability to make you feel safe when you’re at your lowest. They always gave us confidence and never stopped trying when things looked really bad.
“They just don’t give up. They absorbed our anger, our frustration and our despair and never once dismissed us or stopped listening. Thank you will never be enough.”
Nevertheless, her treatment took its toll on the family, who come from the Sheffield suburb of Deepcar.
Dad Kieran, aged 36, said: “We were alternating days and nights - the treatment for your child is so intense. To be there as emotional support for them is exhausting.
“I don’t think you realise until you are living there that there are no facilities - there’s nowhere to cook a family meal.”
“Our experience in terms of the care we received couldn’t be better, but the facilities could be and that’s what drives us today.
“If we can help improve the facilities on the ward, to make it more bearable for patients and parents there, it’s definitely a worthy cause for us.”
Olivia was finally able to go home in May earlier this year.
“Olivia is incredibly resilient and strong, in terms of her development, she’s exactly where she should be,” said Samantha.
“She has regular injections to support her immune system, but there’s nothing stopping her living a full and happy life.”
To thank the hospital, the family have signed up to take part in Theo’s Glow Run, a 5K festive fun run around Endcliffe Park, which will take place on Tuesday, December 18..
So far, they have raised over £3,500 towards the appeal to transform the cancer and leukaemia ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Under the plans, the £2.75m appeal would create private patient rooms with en-suite facilities, giving patients a place to make their own and space for a parent to sleep comfortably alongside them.
The redevelopment will also increase the ward footprint, with larger bed bays and more isolation rooms, expand the space for children to play and more than double the size of the ward classroom.
“Now Olivia’s well again, it’s time for us to give back,” said Samantha.
“Glow Run is just the start for us, because you never think it’s going to be you. We were going to have a child and be the perfect, healthy family. We thought ‘it doesn’t happen to people like us.”
“Of course it does, but you don’t realise until you’re thrown into the situation, but we’re so fortunate to have a hospital like this on our doorstep. And if we can make the surroundings and facilities that little bit better, we’ll do our upmost to make it happen.”
To make a donation to help build a better future for Sheffield Children’s Hospital, visit www.tchc.org.uk.