A desperate mum had her baby girl born early – so she could get to meet her critically ill sister.
Paula Holmes asked doctors to induce baby Scarlet three weeks early, as daughter Katy, 10, bravely battled for survival.
Katy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in October, and has deteriorated rapidly.
Paula, from Margaret Road, Penwortham, said: “The realisation that I was pregnant and that Katy might not get to see the baby was terrifying. My consultant agreed to do it without hesitation.”
Paula and husband David today made an impassioned plea for help to save her – and believe a surgeon in Australia may be their last hope.
It was the lack of a smile on a little girl’s face and a mother’s instinct which led to a devastating diagnosis and every parent’s worst nightmare.
Katy Holmes, 10, of Margaret Road, Penwortham, had always been a happy and healthy child, and her family were used to seeing her with a beaming smile.
So when Katy was presented with a certificate during a school assembly, parents Paula and David immediately noticed something was amiss.
Mum Paula, an early years practitioner at a children’s centre, recalls: “Katy is the type of child who always has a smile on her face, and has always had a happy nature.
“But when the headteacher gave her the certificate, she did not smile or even flinch. She just looked sad, which was really out of character.
“My mother’s instinct sent alarm bells ringing, and I knew there was something seriously wrong.
“I took Katy straight to the GP and said, ‘You’re going to think I’m mad, but I am really worried as Katy isn’t smiling anymore’.”
The family’s turmoil began in October, only weeks after returning from a family holiday to Florida.
Katy began her new term in Year 6 at St Mary Magdalene’s Primary School in Penwortham, and was head girl and looking forward to school life.
But only a few weeks later, Katy began mentioning the odd thing, like the fact she had suffered a bit of double vision or had had a headache.
Paula, who also has daughter Charley, eight, and was seven months’ pregnant with new baby Scarlet at the time, says: “We have a history of headaches in the family, so did not suspect anything abnormal. But we took Katy to the GP straight away just in case.
“The doctor thought it could be migraines, and asked us to keep a week-long diary of Katy’s headaches.
“But just days later, we had the school assembly, and the lack of a smile made me head straight back to the doctors.”
Katy’s GP did not take any chances, and sent her to the Royal Preston Hospital, where a CT scan was carried out. But it came back clear.
Katy then went on a school trip for a couple of days, and when she returned, a teacher mentioned while taking a photograph, she had noticed something did not seem right with one of Katy’s eyes.
Paula took Katy straight to A&E, and an MRI scan was performed, revealing a brain tumour. The tumour was embedded in her brain stem, which is why it did not show up on a CT scan, and Katy was sent to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
Specialists told Katy’s heartbroken parents the bombshell news that, because of the type of tumour and its location, it was inoperable, and the only treatment for it was radiotherapy. She was only expected to live between six and nine months.
Dad David, a self-employed upholsterer who has three grown-up children, too, says: “It is the worst and most aggressive type of brain tumour there is.
“To be told our daughter had it, and that it couldn’t be operated on, was the worst news we could have heard.”
Katy has had radiotherapy at the Christie Hospital in Manchester, and has deteriorated rapidly. She was almost killed by pneumonia, and her parents have already been told to say goodbye to her three times. But each time, Katy has astounded medics by pulling through, and is currently being cared for at Derian House Children’s Hospice.
Mum Paula even had her pregnancy induced so Katy could meet new sister Scarlet, as she feared time was running out.
She says: “Katy loves Scarlet, and seems to have a special way with her. All we have to do is put Scarlet in her arms and she starts smiling.”
The family have not told Katy her condition is terminal, as they want to protect her and to keep on fighting.
They are now pursuing their last hope, which is trying to contact Dr Charles Teo in Australia, who dares to operate where nobody else will, in the hope that he can save Katy, or at least buy her some more time.
Dr Teo is a well-known neurosurgeon who has appeared on television programmes, including Last Chance Surgery, and has been hailed a miracle worker, although some people have criticised him for being too radical.
Paula says: “We are utterly desperate now, and need whatever help we can get. We feel totally helpless as Katy’s life ebbs away.
“Our beautiful daughter is fighting and astounding medics, so we owe it to her to do everything humanly possible to help her fight.
“If this was a war, and Katy was sent to fight, as a mother I would be right in front of her, protecting her from oncoming troops.
“It is no different now, except I don’t actually know what I can do, or how to do it.”