Four-year-old Alexia McArthur’s parents dressed her up in her favorite pajamas and spent the night with her in the hospital before they took her off of life support last Friday after doctors said she would not recover from leukemia.
Alexia was accompanied on her hospital bed by hums of her mother, Jade Ellerby, who sang her daughter’s favorite One Direction songs moments before she took her last breath. “We had to decide whether we wanted to switch off the machine. It was the hardest thing ever but we didn’t want her to suffer any more,” Ellerby told the Daily Mail.
Before she was admitted to Rotherham Hospital in the U.K., Alexia was enjoying a trip to the movies with her parents. She suddenly fell ill and appeared “yellowish.” After being suspected of having leukemia, she was transferred to Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital where several tests indicated that the young girl was suffering acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Each year 3,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALL, usually between the ages of three to five. According to Boston Children’s Hospital, ALL is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the tissue inside the bones where blood cells are made. The blood cell production becomes abnormal which in turn causes the bone marrow to produce immature cells that form leukemic white blood cells known as lymphoblasts. These cells multiple quickly and build up, overpowering healthy cells in the body. This type of leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children, and accounts for 80 percent of all leukemias. The disease can also occur in adults.
The four-year-old leukemia patient underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before she was moved into intensive care. After her condition further deteriorated last Tuesday, she underwent an MRI scan. Ellerby recalled her daughter staring into the corner of the room when she asked, “Can you see mummy?” and she said “no.” The doctors realized during the MRI scan there was no treatment that would save Alexia. The four-year-old girl lost her battle with cancer and never woke up from the scan.
Alexia’s case is rare. Generally, survival rate for ALL sufferers is high. According to researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center, about 90 percent of ALL patients recover. The researchers analyzed more than 21,000 children with ALL in a 25-year follow-up study published in the journal Blood. The high survival rates have been attributed to the numerous of clinical trials that have aided doctors in learning what are the best drugs and dosages to treat children with the disease. It's not all roses, though. ALL survivors often have long-term health issues following recovery, including poor general health, mental health problems, activity limitations, and functional impairment. Researchers are still working to optimize treatments for this pediatric cancer to minimize the adverse effects.
Steven Richardson, a family friend of Alexia, told the Daily Mail, “Alexia’s story is spreading rapidly and we’ve had messages from all over the UK and now the USA. There have been some very generous donations.” Outdoor fundraising events are being planned for the Children’s Hospital to donate to Alexia’s cause.