CALLUM KYLE’S letter to Santa was written weeks ago but his dearest wish would take a miracle to deliver.
The four-year-old leukaemia patient wants to be with his big sisters on Christmas day but is in strict isolation in the children’s cancer ward of the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow because even the slightest bug could make him dangerously ill.
Callum was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia three months ago.
Treatment involves reducing his immune system to a critically-low point to allow his body to accept the cancer treatment.
Since his diagnosis, his world has been the hospital’s Schiehallion cancer unit.
Mum Mhairi, 33, from Crianlarich, Perthshire, said: “Callum adores Christmas and can’t wait for Santa to visit.
“He loves being with his big sisters, Emma, seven, and Erin, six, and follows them everywhere.
“However, with his immune system being reduced so much, even the simplest cold virus could endanger his life. My husband Gavin and I have had to make sure we don’t catch any bugs and stay away from people who may have them.
“Emma and Erin were allowed to play in the ward with him when he first came in but have had to stay away at this crucial time.”
Mhairi and Gavin swap places at the hospital door and Callum used to wave to Emma and Erin through the ward’s glass windows.
“But he became so distressed that he couldn’t join them in the corridor and it was kinder to keep the girls away from the ward,” Mhairi revealed.
“I am heartbroken that we can’t all be together at Christmas.
“It’s upsetting that our children probably won’t be under the same roof for Santa coming. At times I just wish I could sleep away the next couple of weeks.
“We will work hard to make sure that all our children are happy.
“I’ll be with Callum, and Gavin will be with the girls on Christmas Day.
“We’ll swap over at the ward door so the girls get a chance to see us both.”
Gavin, a driller at the gold mine in Tyndrum, will spend the day just 10 minutes away the with
Emma and Erin in the CLIC Sargent children’s cancer charity house. It gives families from outlying areas somewhere to stay during the months when children are undergoing treatment.
The lucky children get home to spend Christmas in the warmth of familiar surroundings.
The Kyles’ story epitomizes the challenges faced by families affected by childhood cancer.
Parents’ lives are put on hold as they hope and pray their little ones’ treatment will work.
They bravely accept that chemo’s sledgehammer approach is their best chance to beat the disease.
Today, 65% of children survive acute myeloid leukaemia.
In 1980, just 21% of those children made it.
What sustains families through months and sometimes years of treatment is love and care from those around them…especially at Christmas.
“We try not to tell people the bad bits of this journey through cancer,” added Mhairi.
“Obviously, our family and best friends we tell everything to, but we tend to sugar-coat the bad bits for everyone else.
“It’s hard to do this in the run-up to Christmas, though. There is no disguising how painful it is, being apart for the most magical day of the year.
“Callum is Christmas-daft and dresses up as Santa all year round.
“He has had his ward room decorated since September!
“Other families call his room the Grotto.
“It is so difficult trying to prepare him for a Christmas in hospital, especially when it’s his favourite time of year. Santa is his hero.”
Luckily the family have been surrounded by willing helpers. Mhairi added: “Our families and friends rallied immediately after Callum’s diagnosis.
“My sister-in-law Debbie gave up her job to help look after our girls.
“When Gavin got home after a fortnight down here our freezer had been filled with home-cooked meals made by our friends and our log store had been filled with enough logs to last the whole winter.
“Plumber Jason Campbell fitted a new oil heating system in our house and managed to get lots of materials including the boiler and oil tank donated and gave lots of his time.
“This means Callum will get home to a warm house as our heating system wasn’t great.”
The girls’ school, Crianlarich Primary, became a vital arm of care for Emma and Erin.
“There are about 25 children in the whole school and they have been a great support to our girls.
“Above all, Callum has been kept alive by Professor Brenda Gibson and her great team.”