Tributes paid to Olivia Downie after cancer-stricken girl dies in Aberdeen hospital
THE heartbroken parents of Olivia Downie have led the tributes to their “darling daughter” whose smile “shone like a star” after the seven-year-old died peacefully in hospital.
The terminally ill schoolgirl from Fraserburgh, who had captured the hearts of a nation, died in the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital today, two days after she had been flown back home to Scotland following the failure of specialist treatment in Mexico to extend her life.
Messages of sympathy flooded into a website established by a cancer charity which had helped to raise more than £150,000 to fund the air ambulance that flew Olivia and her parents, Steven, 34, and Lauren, 27, back home to Scotland.
The news of Olivia’s death was broken in a poignant statement released on behalf of her family by NHS Grampian.
Mr and Mrs Downie, who have another daughter, Jessica, aged 22 months, said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that our darling daughter Olivia slipped away peacefully this morning after her long and courageous battle.”
The statement continued: “We are so thankful that, thanks to the generosity of so many people, we have been able to take her home to Scotland so she could have her family by her side. Words cannot express how grateful we are that this final journey was made possible.
“We would like to extend our gratitude to the medical and nursing teams both at NHS Grampian and overseas who have also been part of our lives for so long. We were blessed to have had Olivia in our lives and her cheeky smile that shone like a star will be with us forever. Please, once again, be respectful of our wishes for privacy at such a devastating time in all our lives.”
Her uncle, Kevin Downie, told The Scotsman: “She was a very courageous little girl. I am sure the fact that she was at home with family and friends will be of great comfort to my brother and his wife. She wasn’t suffering in any way when she passed.”
Olivia was first diagnosed in January 2009 as suffering from stage-four neuroblastoma – a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer which attacks the nervous system.
Her parents had flown with Olivia to the Hope 4 Cancer Institute in Tijuana a fortnight ago in the hope that specialist treatment could extend her life, but the schoolgirl failed to respond to the cutting-edge treatment and lapsed into a coma.
Olivia had been on a ventilator on life-support since her return to Aberdeen and her condition had begun to deteriorate on Thursday afternoon.
Linza Corp, the founder of the charity Families Against Neuroblastoma, which had spearheaded the fundraising drive to bring Olivia home, said: “Her death is going to affect everyone.”
She continued: “The fact that Olivia was able to return home will help her parents and the fact Olivia heard voices and she recognised and nodded and smiled after her arrival in Aberdeen, I have no doubt in my mind, was as a direct result of being at home where she belongs.”
Ms Corp stressed that Olivia’s story had served to help focus public attention on a disease which was struggling to attract funding worldwide: “Children do survive it, but not very many. We are struggling, but that’s not the fault of the NHS. Not enough money is being poured into research and there is never going to be enough money when nobody has heard of neuroblastoma. You need public awareness to help find a cure.”
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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