For Oliver Hinchcliffe and his family, the staff at Sheffield Children’s have been like family.
The nine-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia known as Mixed Phenotype Acute Leukaemia (MPAL) in April 2018.
Since then, a funding effort in his honour has raised more than £25,000 to help transform a ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital which saved his life.
Sally Hinchcliffe, his mother, recalls his diagnosis: “He had been suffering with tonsillitis for around ten days and the antibiotics he had been given weren’t working.
“I knew something wasn’t right, so I took him back to the doctors and they sent him for a blood test to check for glandular fever. We went to the walk-in blood clinic at Sheffield Children’s and within a couple of hours, we received a phone call asking us to go back.
“That’s when they gave us the news he had leukaemia. It was a total shock, we thought the blood test would show he had glandular fever and be off for a few weeks feeling tired, we were completely unprepared for a cancer diagnosis.”
MPAL is a very rare form of leukaemia which has combined features of myeloid and lymphoid cancers. It affects fewer than five per cent of children and adults diagnosed with leukaemia.
As a result Oliver, from Chesterfield, began intensive treatment on the Cancer and Leukaemia ward at the hospital, which included more than three years of chemotherapy.
Sally adds: “The care on the Cancer and Leukaemia ward and the Haematology Clinic was incredible. They have been like a family to us for three years and we will be eternally grateful, they are true superheroes.”
Shortly after Oliver’s diagnosis, The Children’s Hospital Charity began an appeal to transform the ward providing his treatment with new facilities.
Sally adds: “We were on the ward for around 10 days when Oliver was first diagnosed so he could have his line fitted as well as a blood transfusion and medication to fight the other infections his body was struggling to cope with.
“The facilities on the old ward weren’t the best and definitely could have been improved, but the gold star care from all the staff made up for it! We have been in and out of the ward many, many times over the past few years for different treatments – it became like a second home so it’s great that the new facilities will really make it feel more homely.”
The transformation maximises the view of Weston Park, making patients feel connected to the outside while they are getting better. There is also a larger playroom situated in the heart of the ward and improved spaces for parents to stay with their children.
Patients have already moved onto the ward, and it will be complete later this year as finishing touches, including bespoke artwork for patients and families, are being installed over the coming weeks by the charity’s arts programme, Artfelt.
Adding to the fundraising was a huge total raised in Oliver’s honour, through his auntie Nicola. She raised more than £4,400 for the appeal as well as organising wider fundraising efforts for the hospital in her team at HSBC, fetching more than £20,000.
Sally continues: “We are so lucky to have Nic in our lives; she is one of the most caring, thoughtful and determined people I know.”
Oliver was able to ring the bell at a special event at Weston Park Museum, for family and friends including his mum and father, Tom, last year.
Sally adds: “The bell ringing was amazing – it seems like such a simple thing but it really did mark the end of an immensely difficult journey. Oliver is our little superhero and it was so special that he got to share his moment of celebration in a place that has meant so much during his treatment – the museum really was a sanctuary for him.”