They saved his daughter's life - now a Hartlepool man is showing his thanks with a 280-mile charity walk

A grateful dad from Hartlepool is saying thanks to the hospital which saved his daughter’s life – by walking 280 miles in nine days.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 4:45 am

Paul O’Donovan, 36, has never forgotten the kindness that Bristol Children’s Hospital showed his daughter Lyla who became poorly when she was just three years old.

Lyla, now eight, was diagnosed with a tumour on her brain in 2016.

Surgeons in Bristol drained fluid, gave her steroids to reduce the swelling and then removed as much of the brain tumour as they could during 15 hours in theatre.

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Lyla O'Donovan pictured in hospital where she has spent a quarter of her life since being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

"The tumour was so big that it was pushing on every part of her brain,” said Paul who is from Hartlepool and was serving at an Army base in Devon at the time.

“They could not believe that she was still standing. If they had not identified the tumour, she had one week left to live. It was the team at Bristol which saved her life but it wasn’t just that. It was all the little things they did as well.

“They bought princess baubles for Lyla and put them in her hair. They dragged beds into Lyla’s room so we could stay with her. They went way beyond what they had to do and they gave unbelievable support.”

Now Paul, who is still in the Army, is showing his gratitude with a walk which will be his biggest charity challenge yet.

Courageous Lyla still manages a thumbs-up from her hospital bed, with dad Paul by her side.

In the past, he has;

* Planned a 13-mile walk dressed as a Disney princess;

* Run from his current home in Durham to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle.

Lyla with her dad Paul during a more recent hospital stay.

But Paul, who is also dad to Henry, Olivia, Lilley and Reece, admitted: “I have never done anything like this before but it is something I have wanted to do for years.

"I am doing it because Bristol was the first place where Lyla got treatment and where the tumour was diagnosed. I owe them everything.”

Paul will walk from the University Hospital of North Durham, where Lyla currently gets support in her ongoing treatment, to Bristol Children's Hospital on a date to be fixed.

He plans to walk for up to 12 hours a day in February next year and stop overnight at military camps.

Lyla bravely manages a smile.

Her health struggles are not over. She and her family are waiting for the results of scans which will show whether the tumour has grown once more.

And in the years since that first surgery, she has spent a quarter of her life in hospital. As well as the tumour, Lyla has come through meningitis and hydrocephalus but never stops thinking of other youngsters who are poorly.

She has her own charity with her big sister Lilley, 12, and it is called Lyla and Lilley’s Stars.

Its aim is to make youngsters feel more cheerful when they are going through tough times such as when they have to face up to needles and operations in hospital.

It will also benefit from Paul’s mega walk and anyone wanting to donate should visit https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/17485#!/DonationDetails

Paul O'Donovan and his daughter Lyla.

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Lyla in hospital after her first operation on her brain tumour in 2016.
Brave Lyla O'Donovan who has spent a quarter of her life in hospital.
Lyla O'Donovan in hospital in 2016.