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'God must be amazing if he has people like Kathy on his side!'

What could be more devastating than finding out your child’s life is in danger? Mum Kerry relates how a hospital chaplain made all the difference ...

What could be more devastating than finding out your child’s life is in danger?

Church Army Evangelist, Kathy Green, is Chaplain at the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where she provides emotional, spiritual and practical support to the young patients and their families. Kerry, the mother of two-year-old Maddison, who was diagnosed with leukaemia, shares her story …

My name is Kerry, I’m 30 years old and have three children, Jessica (10), Andrew (3) and Maddison (2).

In many ways, Maddison is like any other two-year-old. She loves animals, painting, baking and the Disney animated film, Frozen. Like all children, she also likes to make a mess!

However, when Maddison was 17 months old, she was diagnosed with leukaemia. I had noticed that she always seemed tired, then she started having seizures. Her little body would shake uncontrollably, her lips would turn blue and her eyes would go completely white.

I took her to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital and initially, all the tests came out normal. We stayed in hospital over the weekend and on the Monday they confirmed that Maddison had leukaemia. We were devastated. My partner Derek suffers from numerous health issues and walks on crutches. Just the week before, we had buried Derek’s father, who lost his battle to cancer, and now this. Our world just fell apart.

Maddison would just lie in her bed lifelessly. She didn’t want us to hold or touch her – she just wanted to be left alone. It was terrible – our little girl was suffering and we couldn’t do anything to help her.

Meanwhile, the tests at the hospital continued. They had to take more blood tests, as well as bone marrow tests, so that we could establish what type of leukaemia Maddison has. She has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Since she has no immune system, she catches every virus possible and gets infection on top of infection.

I remember the first time Maddison had to go down to the operating theatre. It was just me and her, as Derek was looking after our two other children. I felt that I simply couldn’t go through this by myself. Derek told me to go to the hospital chapel and look for Kathy.

Kathy and Derek’s mother had been friends since he was a little boy. His mum had a photo of Kathy in the lounge, so I had no problem recognising her.

Kathy has been absolutely fantastic; she’s been like a sister to me. I don’t know how she does it – she sees so much suffering, yet she is always upbeat and smiling. We come to the hospital at least two or three times a week for Maddison’s chemotherapy treatments and bone marrow transplants and Kathy or someone from her team will always come and sit with me. They’re there for me if I want to have a chat, cry, rant and rave, or if I simply need a cuddle.

All my children call Kathy ‘Auntie Kathy’. It’s been hard for my children to cope with it all. Andrew is extremely protective of his little sister, and Jessica has had a particularly hard time. Her biological father was religious but physically abusive to us, which put me off religion for a long time. But when I met Kathy, I thought: “God must be amazing if he has people like Kathy on his side!”

I asked Kathy to baptise my children in the hospital chapel. It was an incredible day of joy and tears and we managed to squeeze 28 people into the tiny chapel. I often go into the chapel now; it’s got such a lovely atmosphere, so calm and peaceful. I say a prayer for Maddison and other people I know in need of prayer. Kathy also talks to my children about Jesus. She tells them that he’s their special friend and, even though things are sometimes not easy, he is always there for them.

Little Maddison has never been on holiday but hopefully we will have our first weekend away as a family very soon. My biggest wish is that she will get well soon and be a healthy, happy-go-lucky child, like every child should be.    

• Almost 4,000 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK*. The most common childhood cancer is leukaemia, which accounts for almost one third of all cases. The Sheffield Children’s Hospital is one of only four specialist children’s hospitals in the UK.
(* Children with Cancer UK statistics)

PHOTO TOP (from left): Kerry, Maddison and Kathy Green

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