Bringing together families and friends, businesses, schools, artists and the community, the trail will begin in July 2021 and support the fundraising drive to build a new Cancer and Leukaemia ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Olivia from Deepcar was just fourteen weeks old when her parents took her for a routine weighing with a health visitor in 2017.
Mum Samantha explains: “We were supposed to be going to a swimming lesson, but the health visitor was worried she looked pale, so they sent us to Sheffield Children’s for some blood tests.”
Within two hours, Olivia from Deepcar was diagnosed with infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). Just 4% of cases present in children under 12 months old, affecting only around 13 children in the UK every year.
The condition is caused by a genetic mutation which releases immature white blood cells into the blood stream. It requires immediate treatment, made even more difficult given Olivia’s very young age.
Olivia was quickly admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Sheffield Children’s, where she spent the next five days.
Samantha continues: “The floor fell out of our world, to say we were terrified doesn’t even cover it.”
Soon after, Olivia began three rounds of chemotherapy on the Cancer and Leukaemia ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
A centre of excellence, the Oncology and Haematology department at Sheffield Children’s covers a population spanning an area from South Yorkshire through to Nottingham and Grimsby.
The ward provides treatment for cancer and blood disorders in children from babies through to 19-year-olds in South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire. It also sees patients from across the UK for chemotherapy, operations, and bone marrow transplants.
The Children’s Hospital Charity are currently fundraising to transform the ward’s facilities and building work began last week. As well as a larger, brighter space, there will be a bigger and better playroom situated in the heart of the ward.
It will maximise the view of Weston Park, making patients feel connected to the outside whilst they are getting better. There will also be improved spaces for parents to stay with their children.
Samantha explains: “It’s so difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been in that situation, but when children embark on this journey, it’s not an overnight stay or even a few weeks, children can stay on the ward for months and years.
“The upgrade will impact so much and help in ways you can’t even imagine. It’s an opportunity to provide more comfort and give small moments of privacy to a family. Please if you haven’t already, donate. If we all give a little, it soon becomes a lot.
“We all want the best for our children and you never think it will be you, but please help the people who are going to be there and afford them that comfort. You will make a life-changing difference, the impact of which you may never realise unless you were in the position we were.”
Following her transplant, Olivia became seriously ill with the most severe form of Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD), where the donated bone marrow viewed the recipient’s body as foreign and proceeds to attack the body.
The life-threatening condition saw what was expected to be a six week stay following her transplant become six months. During that time, Olivia was nil-by-mouth for five months and relied on more than 60 blood and platelet transfusions to keep going.
Samantha added: “The staff on the ward are incredible, we owe Olivia’s life to them. You could see the pride they felt as she started walking for the first time, they feel it too as they’ve been there every step of the way.
“They make you feel safe when you’re at your lowest, they never stopped trying and they just refused to give up, even when things looked really bad. Thank you will never be enough.”
In March 2020, Olivia and her family rang the ward bell. Olivia has now been transferred to the Late Affects Clinic where she will be monitored until she is 18 years old. She undergoes blood tests and medical reviews every four months.
Samantha continues: “It has been a whirlwind to watch her grow and an incredible privilege to see her reach those milestones makes our hearts burst. Olivia will start school in September which is incredible, because there were times we never thought she would.
“She is incredibly full of life, very confident, loving happy child and Olivia makes us proud with her determination every day. We are very excited to show her the Bears of Sheffield, Olivia is very much an explorer and I know she will have great fun this summer.”
To find out more about the Bears of Sheffield and how the trail will support Sheffield Children’s to help more families like Olivia’s, please visit www.bearsofsheffield.com