Hunstanton charity founder ‘devastated’ by death of terminally-ill girl she raised £155,000 to fly home
The founder of a Norfolk charity which helped raise £155,000 to fly a terminally-ill seven-year-old girl home from Mexico today said she was devastated by the news of her death.
Olivia Downie died peacefully in the early hours of this morning, two days after returning to Scotland.
Her family said they were “blessed” to have had her in their lives.
Hunstanton-based Families Against Neuroblastoma (Fan) helped the family with fundraising to bring her home. Almost £155,000 was donated through a JustGiving page set up to raise money for their flights and medical costs.
Today Linza Corp, who set up the charity after her 17-month-old son Max died of the rare cancer, said: “We’re devastated. I appreciate that Olivia’s story has captured the hearts and minds of the nation. I am nothing more than a grieving mummy myself and I am hurting for my friends and Olivia.
“Neuroblastoma is one of the most aggressive types of childhood Cancer. After domestic accident, Neuroblastoma is the second most frequent cause of mortality in children.
“Most children present at a GP several times before being finally diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in the final stage, stage 4. Most children with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma will not survive.
“Awareness is the key. I am calling upon every parent, grandparent, GP, midwife, health visitor, child minder, school teacher, everyone who knows and loves a child to please make sure you know the signs and symptoms of Neuroblastoma and indeed all childhood cancers.”
Olivia and her family, from Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire, flew to the Central American country earlier this month to get her treatment for neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer.
While there, she fell seriously ill and her family was told she would need expensive medical treatment on any flight home. Olivia, her mother Lauren and father Steven touched down in Aberdeen on a medical plane on Wednesday after a fundraising drive helped meet the cost.
She was taken straight to Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital. In a statement released through NHS Grampian, her parents said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that our darling daughter Olivia slipped away peacefully this morning after her long and courageous battle.
“We are so thankful that, thanks to the generosity of so many people, we have been able to take her home to Scotland so she could have her family by her side. Words cannot express how grateful we are that this final journey was made possible.
“We would like to extend our gratitude to the medical and nursing teams, both at NHS Grampian and overseas, who have also been part of our lives for so long.
“We were blessed to have had Olivia in our lives and her cheeky smile that shone like a star will be with us forever.”
Olivia was diagnosed in January 2009 after suffering severe backache and tiredness. Following visits to GPs, she was taken to Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
Fan said Olivia had a tumour the size of a grapefruit in her stomach.
Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the nervous system and can occur anywhere in the body. Fewer than 100 children are diagnosed with it each year in the UK and most who suffer from it are younger than five years old.