anna's blog

Our beautiful, gorgeous little girl, Anna, has leukaemia. She was diagnosed on Monday 5 December 2011.

Pneumonia. Again.

It’s 1.30am and I’ve left Anna in the care of the staff in the high dependancy unit at sick kids to try and get a few hours sleep up in PJ’s loft (parent’s accommodation).

Our arrival at A&E this evening was sudden and unexpected. Anna has had a bad cough for over 3 weeks and there have been ups and downs but she seemed over the worst and was in really good spirits when she left for school this morning. Over the 3 weeks, she has been on antibiotics, used her cough assist on a regular basis and tried hard to clear the phlegm that has built up in her lungs. However it just hasn’t been enough. She felt unwell at school this afternoon and developed a temperature of 39 degrees soon after arriving home. She was extremely nauseous (due to all the mucus and phlegm going into her stomach) and not wanting to eat or drink. She wanted to go to bed straightaway and didn’t ask for her electronic device. Both actions are completely out of character and enough to cause concern. I called the GP, who arrived out at the house 20 mins later and within the hour we were on our way to sick kids. We were seen fairly quickly and sent for a lung X-ray. Things speeded up after that (supporting my new theory that the worse things are the quicker the nhs response).

Doctor’s descriptions of Anna tonight have included ‘a very sick child’, ‘very poorly’, ‘really very unwell’. We’ve spent most of the evening in the A&E emergency room, with constant doctor/consultant presence, as Anna has needed significant oxygen and various monitorings since arriving early this evening.

Tonight’s X-ray shows the left hand side of her lungs almost completely infected with pneumonia. The out of hours physiotherapist has been called in to try and help clear the build up in her lungs and the out of hours radiographer was called in to do a lung ultrasound. She has got a cannula in her hand and had bloods taken and tested.

She has received 2 different IV antibiotics, an anti emetic and is currently receiving fluids. She is taped up with both heart and oxygen monitors which are both giving readings causing some concern – low oxygen saturation levels, high heart rate and high respiratory rate. She has been nil by mouth since arriving as it looked like the fluid build up on the lungs might require a drain, and presumably a general anaesthetic. However, the ultrasound results show little fluid but a lot of infection

Everybody as always has been wonderful with her but sometimes explaining to the parent what is going on during a ‘significant event’ is the last thing to happen. It was clear from the fact that we were in the main emergency room that it was serious but I’ve had to ask for information, specifically ‘is this treatable?’ and later, ‘is she improving ‘. Without these questions I don’t know how worried I need to be (the answer was yes to both). She has certainly caused a lot of concern tonight but all the signs seem to show that she will recover.

Anna’s own comment is ‘this has been a really bad day’. I agree completely. X


Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day
— Read on

Leave a comment »

Anna’s care

Anna’s care
— Read on

1 Comment »

Outdoor activities with The Calvert Trust @Keilder Water

Nathan, Anna and I have had an incredible week at keilder water as part of the No Limits sports club group staying with The Calvert Trust. The pictures speak for themselves. Thanks to everyone for making it happen. X





Appointments and operations

We have more than our fair share of planned medical appointments – oncology, respiratory, endinocrology, spinal, neurology,  physiotherapy, occupational therapy and orthotics as well as all the other school and social care meetings. These range from monthly to annual and everything in between and so there is rarely a week that goes by without some kind of appointment. There are also frequent unplanned events around Anna’s care needs.  There is not much I can do about this. I just have to plan our lives as best as I can and make sure that I’m always available.

Anna has had three appointments in the last two weeks, all worth a mention.

The first was her 6 month check up with the respiratory team at Edinburgh Sick Kids. Anna’s muscles are weak due to SMA. Not just the muscles that would allow her to walk or make more of use her arms but internal muscles as well. When she gets a cough she doesn’t have the strength to clear her lungs so phlegm or mucus build up. That leads to two main problems. Firstly, the build up of phlegm/mucus creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, leading to infection such as pneumonia and then hospitalisation. Or secondly she manages to cough it up just far enough to fall back into her stomach, leading to severe nausea, dehydration and again, hospitalisation. Although she finally has a cough assist machine which helps clear her lungs, I’m still  paranoid about letting her get near anyone with a cold or cough. It’s not a big issue for most people but for Anna it can be serious. Maintaining good respiratory health is essential for Anna and anyone with SMA. 

Anna’s second appointment was her annual bone density scan. A combination of being non weight bearing and receiving steroid treatment for leukaemia meant that her bone strength had deteriorated to the point that her bones were were beginning to break when she simply bent an arm.  Because of that, her leukaemia treatment was stopped early as the consequences of such serious bone fragility were too severe.  She had bone strengthening treatment for over a year and her bone strength now sits just within the normal range for a child of her age.  We go to the Medical Physics department at the western general hospital in Edinburgh for an annual scan (she lies under the machine in the picture) to monitor ongoing strength. Obviously it’s important that her bones are as strong as possible for lots of reasons. 

Anna’s third appointment was for surgery. We’ve been waiting almost a year to get her portocath (click for more information) removed, due to illness on either her or the surgeon’s part or higher priority patients bumping her off the lists. The first procedure she had done after she was diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) was the insertion of the portocath. I remember clearly the trauma of trying to get a cannula in Anna’s hand in those immediate hours following diagnosis. She was so dangerously ill at that point, and her red blood cells down to next to nothing,  and they couldn’t find a point to get it in. We were all traumatised. Having a  portocath made it easier to give her the hundreds of procedures needed  such as blood or platelet transfusions, steroids, chemotherapy, antibiotics, fluids, anaesthetics, etc. Anna’s general anaesthetic/surgery was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon so she had to fast from 7.30am. She had an early breakfast at 7am of porridge and then nothing until after surgery around 6pm. It all went well and we were able to get some painful dental work done at the same time while she was anaesthetised. 

1 Comment »

5 years on

My beautiful, gorgeous girl is now 8 yrs old. 5 years ago today she was diagnosed with Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After 2 years of intensive treatment  she remains in remission.


Our lives had already been changed forever with the diagnosis of Spinal Muscular atrophy only a few months before the leukaemia diagnosis, but now we are through the intense and traumatic period of critical illness we focus on allowing Anna to be the best she can both now and in the future. She is just like many other 8 yr old girls. She loves arts and crafts, singing dancing and (still) loves anything pink and sparkly. She has a full and busy life with school, after school activities, play dates and holidays. She expects to be able to do everything and that’s what we try and make happen. However we face challenges on a daily basis in terms of the level of care and support needed as well as ensuring accessibility in its broadest sense as we go about our lives. Anna still doesn’t sleep through the night, needing help to turn over or move her covers, which means I live in a state of constant exhaustion. She remains under the care of 6 consultants across 3 hospitals and 2 countries. She needs help with every single aspect of her life both day and night.

I’ve struggled to blog in the last year or two (mostly because I’m just so tired all the time)  but I know there are lots of you who want to know how Anna is doing. We still have a story to tell – not so much now about leukaemia but more about how we deal with disability and ensure accessibility in every aspect of Anna’s life. I’m going to do my very best to continue the blog to tell you that story.

It’s probably clear to even those who don’t know Anna personally that she is a strong willed, assertive and (at times) confident young girl. She places no restrictions on herself and expects the same from  others. I am very lucky to have her. x


A busy day

We were at sick kids today (Royal Hospital for Sick Kids) Edinburgh in the planned investigations unit to check Anna’s hormone levels. Since finishing her leukaemia treatment almost 2 years ago, Anna has been catching up on her growth. However it seems she might be growing a bit too fast and so today she is having some hormone tests and an xray. Her gripper is in to take bloods and give her some medication. She’s up on the ward and should be finished and back to school in time for lunch. She is thrilled that the play specialist is with her in the playroom.


And especially delighted to get a certificate, medal and gift from the fairy box to take home. 


After all that she made her promise at brownie’s tonight. She is a busy girl!



Back home

24 hours on IV antibiotics, fluids and anti-emetics has an amazing effect. Anna is back to her usual lively self. We’ve been discharged with agreement that we go back as day patient to monitor low potassium levels as well as oral medicines for the next week.  Back to school on Monday…



Happy New Year

Happy new Year from me, Nathan and Anna.

2014 had some real highs… Anna finished active treatment for leukaemia and is now in remission (although under regular review) and we had the most amazing time in Disney world.

However, some difficult times too. Our family life is very different. It’s just the three of us living in the house now and it’s unclear whether or not we will be able to stay in our current home.

Best wishes to everyone for 2015 – I’m sure it’s is going to be a better year for us.


3 years today

IMG_53983 years ago today Anna was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. She has spent 2 1/2 years undergoing aggressive life saving treatment and suffered numerous infections and medical traumas.

However, since finishing treatment in March, she is in remission and looks increasingly healthy and and well. She goes to school every day and loves being with her friends. She can read, write and do sums.  Last night, she danced at the school disco, this morning she met Santa at the school Christmas Fair. She is practising her lines for the nativity play and loves her weekly after school music class. She is just a 6 yr old girl doing all the usual things you would expect.

We continue to face daily challenges in terms of her spinal muscular atrophy but today, we celebrate the fact that 3 years on, she is still here.



%d bloggers like this: