Amazing Hartlepool youngster in incredible fightback from brain tumour

Lyla O'Donovan in hospital with her dad Paul.
Lyla O'Donovan in hospital with her dad Paul.

The family of a battling Hartlepool youngster has been given new new hope as she is making incredible progress after gruelling surgery on a brain tumour.

Three-year-old Lyla O’Donovan faced 15 hours in the operating theatre at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

Lyla O'Donovan.

Lyla O'Donovan.

Surgeons conducted a debulking procedure where they hoped to get rid of as much of the tumour as possible.

But the “amazing” team produced even better results, said Lyla’s dad Paul, 31, who along with mum Kirsty O’Donovan waited at the hospital for the outcome.

Surgeons are “99.9 per cent confident” they have got rid of the lot despite the odds being against them.

The next few weeks will tell just how successful the major operation has been but so far, it’s positive.

You fear the worst and every second feels like an hour and every hour like a day

Paul O’Donovan

Lyla has to be kept in hospital while she is monitored for issues such as fits, diabetes and temperature control but Paul admitted: “That’s nothing compared to what it could have been.

“We were told she might not come out the same child. We were told she might be paralysed from the neck down, or that she could always need a ventilator.

“But she is slowly getting everything back.”

The life-threatening tumour was in the brain stem and on the top of Lyla’s spine. It was already starting to affect the part of the brain that controls all movement and physical functions.

Lyla O'Donovan is a big fan of Disney princesses.

Lyla O'Donovan is a big fan of Disney princesses.

It was affecting the brave youngster’s breathing, talking, walking and eating.

She’s been in hospital in Bristol since September and Paul re-lived the agonising wait that he and Kirsty had to endure while their daughter was in surgery.

“You can not imagine how long 15 hours can be when you are desperately waiting for them to come back and see if everything is alright.

“You fear the worst and every second feels like an hour and every hour like a day.

Miles for Men officials present Lyla's family with presents.

Miles for Men officials present Lyla's family with presents.

“But they are happy with the outcome of the operation and it is amazing what they have done. It doesn’t look like there has been any permanent damage.”

The couple, who are also parents to Reece, 11, Olivia, 10, Lilley, eight, and Harry, five, can’t thank the surgeons enough.

Paul said: “When I was filling in the consent form, they said there was a really slim chance of getting the tumour in one.”

But its size and position made that outcome unlikely - until the fantastic Bristol team got to work.

“We never thought they would get the whole thing,” said Paul.

Help from Miles for Men

It’s fingers crossed for Lyla’s future but in the meantime, Paul also praised the fantastic support his family had received from Hartlepool.

Town charity Miles for Men stepped in to give special presents to Lyla’s siblings.

Charity representatives Michael Day, Kevin Hill, Michelle Shield and local business man Peter Rooney turned up bearing gifts for the youngsters including a signed football and signed football shirt.

Paul said: “I can not thank them enough. These are people I had never met before but they sent messages asking if there was anything they could do for us.”

Kevin said the reaction to Lyla’s siblings receiving their gifts was “a wonderful sight to see and the youngsters were totally gobsmacked.”

He added: “These sort of sad events also effects the whole family and it’s just nice to see them all smiling and being happy.”

Brave Lyla will be a princess for a day later this month and it is all thanks to Miles for Men.

Princess Lyla’s Fourth Birthday Celebration is being planned on Saturday, November 26, at the rugby club in Easington Road.

There will be candy floss, cupcakes, popcorn, and Disney princesses.

A buffet, disco, selfie photo booth are also lined up.

And Lyla will get to arrive in style in a horse-drawn carriage along with her family and brothers and sisters.

Kevin Hill added: “When Miles for Men were approached and told about the heartbreaking story of Lyla, the team sprung into action.

“It was agreed that after her surgery the team would make Lyla’s fourth birthday a very special one and make her a princess for the day.”

He praised the charity’s new administration worker Lori Sneddon who “has worked tirelessly to put the event in place.”

Miles for Men founder Michael Day said: “It’s great to be involved in such a special event and to see the town once again coming together is what makes Hartlepool one of the top North East towns, renowned for raising funds for charities to do the work they do.

“Its what Miles for Men is all about, letting people know there’s always hope and help from a charity which is now known as being the people’s charity.”