A Hartlepool mum has told of the devastating moment medics revealed her youngest daughter is battling a brain tumour.
Kirsty O’Donovan knew there was something wrong when her three-year-old daughter Lyla started becoming dizzy and waking up in the middle of the night feeling sick.
Doctors initially told her she had nothing to worry about, but after taking Lyla to A&E, they finally discovered what was wrong.
Kirsty, 30, who relocated to Devon with husband Paul, 31, a British Army corporal, says Lyla now faces a dangerous and complicated surgical procedure to remove the tumour, which is attached to the top of her spine and vital nerves.
The couple, who are also parents to Reece, 11, Olivia, 10, Lilley, eight, and Harry, five, face an agonising wait for the operation, which is scheduled to go ahead on October 17.
It comes as Hartlepool fundraisers led by taxi driver Stephen Picton raised hundreds of pounds for the youngster in a matter of hours after highlighting the family’s plight.
Kirsty, a restaurant and bar worker, said: “The tumour is on a vital nerve that’s connected to everything in her body and they’ve said they can’t tell us what will happen after the operation.
“She could lose her sight, or her hearing, or the ability to walk, we just don’t know. It’s hard to stay positive and in a way you just have to prepare yourself for the worst possible scenario – we could lose her.”
She added: “When we first found out, I just fell apart. I was running out the hospital crying and I couldn’t deal with it.
“Before all this started, we were looking at all the stuff on Facebook for Bradley Lowery, and I was saying to Paul that I don’t know how his parents could cope, but you can never really know how you’d be in that situation until you’re in it yourself.
“I know now that we just have to take everything day by day, and remain as strong and positive as we can.”
Lyla first started displaying symptoms on September 19.
Kirsty said: “I took her to the doctors and told him she was feeling dizzy and had been waking up in the middle of the night crying, saying she felt dizzy and sick, but they thought it was just a head bug at the time.
“I ended up taking her to A&E and they thought it might have been a kind of ear infection that was affecting her balance.”
Lyla ended up being sent for an MRI scan at Bristol Infirmary, and doctors discovered the tumour.
Kirsty said: “Even now, you wouldn’t really think there was anything wrong with her. I was taking her to the doctors and she was smiling, playing, and looked really healthy.
“People probably thought that I was being a neurotic mother, but I knew something was wrong and I followed my gut instinct and took her to A&E, and if I hadn’t done that I don’t know what would have happened.”
Lyla is being treated with steroids while doctors drain as much fluid as they can from her tumour before operating later this month.
Kirsty said: “The doctors said that usually when this happens, they have to get in there and operate immediately, but Lyla has been lucky in that they’ve found it and can properly plan and prepare for the operation.
“We have to be strong for her and for the other kids. Sitting them down to tell them what was going on was devastating.
“Lyla is too young to understand what’s happening really. She has some stitches in her head, but she just thinks they’re from when she slipped and fell out of her bed the other day. How could she understand what’s happening?”
People of Hartlepool show their support.
A Hartlepool dad is calling on the people of the town to put a smile on little Lyla O’Donovan’s face.
Stephen Picton set up a fundraising page when he heard about the three-year-old’s battle.
The dad-of-four, from Foggy Furze, said: “I’ve known the family for about 35 years because we used to live next door to each other.
“Lyla’s dad Paul is a Hartlepool lad who is serving in the Army and I wanted to do something to help them.
“Paul’s mam, Dorothy, came to me really upset and said that she wanted to do something special so I set up a fundraising page and thought we’d raise £2,000 to buy Lyla some princess dolls and other things she’d like and hopefully to get some princesses to go and visit her in hospital before her operation.
“I set the page up and by the next morning there was already over £1,000 there.”
Stephen, 45, a taxi driver, added: “There’s nowhere in the world that’s like Hartlepool. It’s such a close knit community and we look after our own. It’s always amazing to see how people come together when one of their own needs help.”
Lyla’s mum, Kirsty, said: “Hartlepool sometimes gets a bit of stick but the way people band together is always amazing.
“I didn’t even know about the fundraiser until I saw it pop up on my Facebook page and I couldn’t believe it.
“These people work hard to earn their money and they’re giving it away to make my little girl happy and it’s just really overwhelming.”
To make a donation, go to www.justgiving.com and search for ‘Stephen Picton’.