A FOUR-YEAR-OLD boy diagnosed with a chest infection actually had cancer, his parents have revealed.
Tiny Oliver Smith, from Galgate, Lancaster, fell ill while on a family holiday in Magaluf, Spain.
On return to the UK his worried parents Laura, 30, and Billy, 29, took him to the local GP, where he was diagnosed with a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics.
But Oliver’s condition worsened and now desperately worried, Laura took the tot to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
There she claims a triage nurse asked why she had brought her son – then just three – to an already busy department rather than waiting until the following week and taking him to the doctors.
It is advice she is relieved she did not take after an x-ray revealed revealed Oliver was suffering from T-cell lymphoma, a form of cancer affecting the blood cells. Now the youngster is battling back from the illness.
Laura, from Rose Grove, said: “Had I waited until Monday he might not have made it.
“I was told Oliver had a mass of blood cells crushing his airways and his oxygen levels were low – he was in quite a bad way.
“I was absolutely devastated. We thought he had a chest infection.
“It never entered my head whatsoever that my son would have cancer, you read about it but it’s not something you think will happen to you.”
The following day, Oliver was rushed straight to Manchester Children’s Hospital where he remained for three weeks.
After being stabilised with steroids he began a 30-week course of chemotherapy, of which there are now three weeks remaining.
A further two-year, less intense, course of chemotherapy will follow after that.
The effects have been devastating for both Oliver and his family.
“He has been on as many as five or six different antibiotics at any one time,” said Laura.
“The drugs paralysed him at first. He could move his arms and head and that was it.
“He learned to crawl and walk again at the same time his brother Alfie, who is now 16 months old, was learning, and it has only been over the last couple of weeks that we have not had to use the wheelchair as much.
“He had to have some quite intense physiotherapy, which was very frightening for him.”
Oliver has been in and out of hospital in Manchester ever since his diagnosis.
As well as losing his ginger curls, he has had a biopsy and several blood transfusions.
He is connected to antibiotics 24 hours a day through a tube attached to his chest, which he calls his “wiggles”.
His family hope it will be removed by the time he starts Ellel St John’s CE Primary School in September.
Laura said: “The hardest thing is that Oliver has lost a lot of his confidence and he had to stop going to Galgate Pre School because of the risk of picking up an infection.”
She said her son’s illness had taken its toll on the family. It came while she was still on maternity leave from her job as a civil servant and meant spending time apart from Alfie for the first time.
But she is due to return to work for the first time next month and things are looking up for Oliver, who was diagnosed in November.
“Going by the statistics, he would have stopped responding to his treatment by now if it wasn’t going to work,” she added.
“But if it was to come back it would be very difficult to treat a second time and we will live with that for the rest of our lives.”
The family say they have received an apology from the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust after complaining about the advice they received on their arrival at the RLI last November.
Laura’s friend, Laura Nicks, has organised a cycle ride from The New Inn in Galgate to Blackpool at 8am on Saturday, July 7, to raise money for Oliver and ward 48 at the Manchester Children’s Hospital. Billy, who works at DA France Motor Services, will be among the 11 riders.
Friends also hope to organise an Oliver’s Wishes Night including a raffle to help some of his wishes come true and organise a family holiday, and are appealing for donations from residents and businesses.
Oliver has followed in his dad’s footsteps at an early age with his love of stock car racing, and has a huge collection of toy cars,
His parents hope to fulfil his dream of owning a mini, which they would park in the garage and allow him to play inside.
George Nasmyth, Medical Director, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are sorry that there were elements of Oliver’s care at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary that were not of the high standard we strive to achieve.
“I am aware that Oliver’s parents have written to us regarding this matter but if they would like to discuss this or any other aspect of his care directly with us, we would be happy to do so.”
Anyone wishing to take part in one of the events or make a donation can contact Laura Nicks on 07795 202651.