New hope for brave North Walsham youngster Bethany
Brave Bethany Pardon will wake up today after undergoing a bone marrow transplant that she hopes will cure her of the leukaemia that she has fought with courage and a winning smile for almost a year.
The nine-year-old underwent the long-awaited procedure last night at Bristol Children's Hospital after a nerve-racking four-week wait to find a suitable donor.
The inspirational youngster and her family - mum Nathasha, 40, 38-year-old dad Wayne and 12-year-old brother Joshua - hope that the transplant will finally rid her of the illness that was diagnosed on November 17 last year.
Since that time, Bethany has undergone a gruelling regime of chemotherapy, followed by an all-clear in May.
Heartbreakingly, the illness returned in August, and Bethany's summer was punctuated by another series of chemotherapy sessions at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.
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The bouts left her with damage to a retina in one of her eyes and caused her hair to fall out. But her courage never faltered, and she continued to fight for her life with extraordinary good humour.
When the third chemotherapy session left her bone marrow too weak to cope with another, Bethany was put on the transplant list - triggering a four-week wait at the family home at Plumbly Close, North Walsham, which her dad said was like a 'ticking timebomb'.
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Initially, 87 good matches were found, and experts narrowed it down to one 100pc match - which resulted in Bethany being called in for last night's crucial transplant.
Mr Pardon said: 'Bethany was really apprehensive until the donor donated. The different drugs have had different effects on her body, and it has been tough for her.
'But she has done so well. All of us think our children are great, but she's had 12 months of this now and she still smiles and keeps going.'
Mr Pardon said it would be a while before the family knew how successful the transplant had been, and added that Bethany and his wife would remain in Bristol 'maybe until January', with he and Joshua planning to visit as often as possible.
He said the 'key date' was 100 days away, when - if all went well - Bethany would finally be able to mix with her friends and go out socially after months of being isolated to protect her from viruses.
But he added that nobody was taking anything for granted, saying: 'What we've always done is take one day at a time. We will worry about tomorrow morning when we wake up. But providing there's no hitches, she will be clear of leukaemia.'
He also turned his thoughts to the people whose self-sacrifice made such transplants possible.
He said: 'Until you are in this boat you have no idea how much people do when they give up their time to give blood or donate bone marrow. We are so grateful to them.'