A nurse has thanked her kind hearted colleagues and friends for raising £30,000 to help her son, who has been struck down by bone cancer.
Wrexham nurse Mandy Giddins and her son Jordan will head to the US in June, where he will undergo a gruelling nine-week course of proton beam radiotherapy – his best chance of a cure.
The 17-year-old from Flintshire, who now has Ewings Sarcoma, has previously survived a rare blood disease after his sister donated bone marrow.
His treatment in America will be covered by the NHS however his family still need to fund living costs and expenses for the three months he receives the therapy, while taking an unpaid career break.
Mandy, who works as a specialist nurse at the urology department at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, has been astounded at the support of her friends from Flint, Bagillt and Holywell along with hospital colleagues, whose joint fundraising efforts have raised more than £30,000 in just six weeks.
Together they’ve taken on a month-long series of challenges including bike marathons, mountain hikes and sponsored walks.
The latest venture, a charity night at Flint’s Royal British legion Club raised £4,500 – with a £1,000 donation from Flint Town United, plus a further £2,000 from local pigeon racing fans.
The aim of the fund-raising is relieve Jordan’s parents of the financial burden of travelling to the US with their desperately ill son – with colleagues and friends saying there is nothing they won’t do to help the family.
“I’m just overwhelmed and emotional with the response of everyone,” said Mandy, 48, who has worked for the NHS for 30 years.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we expect anything near that total. The money is a huge relief for us but it is the people’s generosity and support that has touched us – people have gone out of their way to help.
“They’ve made it a lot easier for us. It means so much. They are all really willing him to get better. That plays a huge part in how we feel about all the fundraising.
“The event in Flint was amazing, with everybody helping to raise so much. For example, some friends who took a shop in Holywell for two weeks raised £3,000, and everybody seems to have come up with an idea,” added Mandy.
Jordan, from Pwll y Hwyaden in Flint, was diagnosed with hemaphagocytic histiocystosis (HLH), a rare blood disease affecting one in every million people, six years ago.
He underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant donated by his older sister Bethany in October 2011.
He went on to make a full recovery but family life was shattered for a second time in July last year when the former Flint High School pupil began to feel unwell again. A scan revealed a tennis ball sized tumour on his ribs.
Jordan has just completed six rounds of intensive chemo at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and faces an operation to remove the tumour next month. The treatment has left him weak and unwell and he has repeatedly been admitted to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd for blood transfusions to boost his platelets.
Doctors have said his best hope is the proton beam radiotherapy which will be carried out in either Jacksonville or Oklahoma in June, with mum Mandy and dad Paul travelling with him.
“He’s very strong, he never complains or moans,” said Mandy.
“It’s been such a long process, he’s only 17. His whole life has changed yet he’s so positive. He keeps us positive. He just takes each day as it comes. Even when he’s feeling really poorly he still doesn’t complain.
“He was healthy for four years and went back to college but then it started again last July. They think the tumour may have been caused by the treatment for the blood disease.
“It was devastating. It was hard to believe after all he had been through that it was back.”
A series of charity events have been held since early March to raise funds for the Giddins’ US trip.
Mandy’s colleague Sandie Jones, an advanced nurse practitioner in the urology department at Wrexham Maelor, held a non-stop, six-hour bike marathon on a static bike in the foyer of the hospital in which she travelled 94 miles and raised more than £300.
She also took part in a 12-hour mountain hike up Moel Famau near Mold from 7am until 7pm, organised by a group of Mandy’s friends.
“I’ve worked with Mandy for 15 years,” said Sandie, 60, who is the hospital’s lead prostate cancer nurse.
“I’ve been with her when he went through the first disease, HLH, in which his sister donated her bone marrow.
“Just seeing Mandy go through it all again is heart-breaking. You feel helpless because you can only ask what’s happening. I know that’s helpful but you want to do something tangible, something you can touch.
“Mandy’s friends came up with the idea of fundraising and we all thought ‘Let’s just dive in’.”
The fundraising kicked off with the Moel Famau Day and will conclude with a charity darts match later this month. The total has now exceeded the £30,000 barrier.
“Mandy will have to take a career break and so will earn no money while in the USA and there’s still a mortgage to pay back home,” said Sandie, who lives near Llangollen.
“Her husband is in the same boat. What we’re doing is nothing in terms of what they’re going through as a family. If we can ease the financial burden, then that’s what we will do as friends and colleagues. We just want Jordan to get better and help.
“People have been so kind, it’s unbelievable. I’ve seen patients coming along in wheelchairs, who look seriously ill themselves, and going back to their wards to get money to donate.
“We’ve had lots of support from consultants and staff and friends and family have been excellent. This is the first time I’ve done anything so physical to raise money but it’s no effort to help Jordan and I never even had to chase the money.
“We are all praying that he comes through this.
“Many individual colleagues, including doctors, came and see me doing the bike marathon in the foyer and put money in the bucket. In addition PABC did a collection and brought it to me, the urology secretaries came to see me and all put money in the pot, as well colleagues from Cancer Services,” she said.
“I am also a founding member of the Wrexham prostate cancer support group (PCNEWS) group and several members came to support me and donated as well.
“Pasteur ward staff, all the urology consultants, outpatient’s department, my friends and family, as well as my immediate colleagues (special nurses) all sponsored me for the Moel Famau walk too. The support has been phenomenal.”
Jordan is due to have surgery on May 11 in which they will remove three of his ribs to access the tumour. He will face further chemo following the operation before heading out to the US for the pioneering radiotherapy.
“The tumour has already shrunk from the chemo and they hope it will be dead when they take it out,” said Mandy.
“They’ve told us the proton beam radiotherapy is the best treatment available. We’re expecting to go out in mid-June and hopefully by then he will be over the chemo and better and stronger.
“We’re just so grateful for everyone’s support. Everyone has wanted to do their bit and it’s just overwhelming that people want to help so much.”