The face of this year’s Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity Christmas appeal is a four-year-old girl from Woodhouse who endured three months of isolation while waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
Myla Mae Hatcher will appear on a publicity campaign in the run up to Christmas to urge people to get behind the charity's National Elf Service campaign, which encourages people to raise money by dressing as elves on December 14.
All the money raised will go towards the charity's next big fundraising effort to give the hospital a new emergency department and cancer ward, and to build a helipad on the roof of the hospital.
Danielle, Myla’s mum, said: “We will be raising funds for the rest of our lives to say thank you for Myla’s care, but if we can also inspire others to donate a few pounds or dress up as an elf, we know what a difference it will make to other children in the same situation.”
Myla’ starring role in the appeal caps a remarkable year for the little girl and her family.
Last December, she was rushed into the emergency department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital after she woke up with unusual bruises on her body.
After tests, doctors diagnosed her with a rare blood disorder called aplastic anemia which only affects between 30 and 40 children in the UK every year.
The only way she could be treated was a bone marrow transplant but unfortunately her three-month-old brother Rio wasn’t a match.
“I remember feeling so confused. I didn’t even know that was possible,” said Danielle.
“When Rio wasn’t a match and I was heartbroken but almost relieved too. We didn’t want to see both our children going through so much pain.”
Myla was added to the bone marrow registry and the search for a match began, but in the meantime the family had to visit the cancer ward twice a week for transfusions to keep the youngster going.
As Myla lacked an immune system strong enough to resist infection, the family were confined to their house between hospital visits to prevent her catching a potentially fatal infection.
“My husband quit his job and we lived in isolation with our only respite the back and forth to Sheffield Children’s Hospital,” said Danielle.
“The worst part was seeing Myla unable to do the things every four year old loves at Christmas, visiting Santa and seeing her friends.”
After three months of waiting, Myla’s donor was finally found in February this year.
“He’s a 21 year old man, that’s all we know,” said Danielle.
“Myla always says ‘my donor saved my life with his special blood’ and that’s exactly what he did.
“One day I hope we can meet him and let him know how grateful we are.”
The successful bone marrow transplant was followed by five weeks in isolation on the cancer ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital as Myla’s recovery continued.
“One year on, she has started school and she is now able to mix with other children. My husband has gone back to work and we feel like a normal family again,” added Danielle.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s emergency department is a regional major trauma centre, helping up to 200 children a day from South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire deal with every possible problem imaginable.
It was built to see a maximum of 32,000 patients a year, but now sees close to 60,000 every 12 months.
The £4.5m renovation will see the waiting room expand to four times its current size, with more treatment, consultancy and examination rooms.
The cancer ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital treats up to 100 children a year from as far south as Northampton.
The transformed ward would create private rooms with en-suite facilities alongside larger bed bays and more isolation rooms.
Abbie Pervin, regional fundraising manager at The Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “This December, we’re calling on our supporters to get together and dress up in something elfy to keep our patients healthy!
“By dressing up for the day, you can make a huge difference to young patients Myla for years to come.”
To sign up for National Elf Service and help transform Sheffield Children’s Hospital, visit www.tchc.org.uk today.