A devoted mum and her sick ten-year-old son both forced to isolate in hospital together for three months have finally returned home just in time for Christmas.
Little Harley Race was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London on September 21, after finding out that his leukaemia, which he had already battled once before, had returned.
Harley, from Shoebury, Essex, was told in July this year that the cancer has returned to his bone marrow and fluid surrounding the brain, and that he would need a bone marrow transplant.
And his mum Rachael, 33, chose to stay with him in hospital while he recovered from the surgery – meaning she could not see her older two children, Gracie, 11, and Cameron, 15.
She spent two months sharing a single isolation room on a bone marrow ward with her son before moving onto an oncology ward where she also stayed with him.
But on Saturday (Dec 19), Harley finally rang the end-of-treatment bell and got to leave the hospital with his mum – and the family were finally reunited just days before Christmas.
Single mum Rachael said: “It was really emotional. It’s been quite an overwhelming few days since we got back.
“This has been a long time coming for us.
“We were meant to come home last month, after Harley had had his bone marrow transplant in October and seemed to be doing well.
“But then his cells started attacking the donor cells, and the donor cell count dropped by five per cent – so we were set back by a month.
“As it got nearer to going home, it was a case of monitoring day by day when we might be likely to leave.”
She added: “Harley couldn’t believe it when he finally got to ring the bell. I don’t think he believed me at first.
“He was so happy to see his brother and sister again. I think he all found it a bit much.
“It will be incredible to have all the kids back together again for Christmas. I know this will bring us closer as a family and we’ll never take time together for granted.”
Rachel took the decision to stay by her son’s side when she knew he needed a transplant.
She added: “It was a no brainer really. He was a sick little boy and he really needed his mum.
“It was difficult because I pretty much stayed in one room for two months but eventually we moved to another ward.
“I had to be really careful because we did not want him picking up any bugs.”
Harley was first diagnosed with leukaemia in 2018, and reached the “maintenance” stage of treatment in 2019, where he was allowed to return home and take low-level chemotherapy drugs to keep the cancer at bay.
But in July this year, the family received the devastating news that his cancer has returned to his bone marrow.
Harley has spent the last three months in hospital, even celebrating his tenth birthday in his hospital bed.
And Rachael has missed precious time with her older two children – including her daughter Gracie’s first day of secondary school in September.
She said: “My daughter started high school the week we came into hospital, so I missed that.
“She’s done amazingly, though. I’m so proud of her – she’s like a different person now, she’s really grown up.
“I’m so grateful to my mum, too, for looking after Cameron and Gracie while I’ve been in hospital with Harley – I couldn’t have done it without her.”
And Rachael said that her youngest son has also made her proud, adding: “Harley has been so mentally accepting of whatever lot he has been given.
“It was only really his last few days in hospital that he started to get quite bored, and was really missing his sister.
“But he’s done so well. I’m so impressed with how he has coped.”
Now, Rachael is looking forward to a quiet Christmas with her three children together, as well as her mum.
She said: “He’s done it, he’s rung the bell – now we keep moving forward, and look forward to the future.
“Harley will still have to visit our local hospital for blood transfusions – but apart from that, I’ll be able to take over his care at home.
“The goal now is to keep him out of hospital and keep him healthy for as long as we can.
“The Covid pandemic has actually been a bit of blessing for us this Christmas as we don’t have to be rude to people and ask them not come over.”
Rachael has set up a go fund me page to help raise cash to support her and Harley during his treatment.
You can donate via: http://www.gofundme.com/f/harley-the-heros-homecoming