LOCAL mum Gaye Kerr is throwing a Good Luck party for her friend Julie Fletcher whose seven-year-old son Josh is to undergo a life saving bone marrow, transplant in February.
It will be particularly poignant as Gaye's three year-old daughter Helen underwent similar treatment in 2005 before developing complications and dying.
Gaye will be hosting the party and auction at the Maze Presbyterian Church on January 2, 2010 and hopes to raise £3,000 which will help fund travel arrangements for the Fletcher family when they go to England next year for Josh's treatment.
The two woman have known each other since the birth of their eldest children and have supported each other through grief, pain and happiness during the highs and lows of motherhood.
Gaye helped to raise £15,000 for Julie to undergo specialised IVF treatment while Julie has held joint birthday parties for their children. Gaye said: "I know what the family will be going through so I wanted to so what I can to lend them my support. They have always supported me and while there is nothing I can do to help the situation, I can do this to raise some money to help them while Josh is getting this treatment."
Gaye and Julie first met in Lagan Valley Hospital in April 1999. Julie's eldest son was born in April while Gaye's son came along in June.
Their friendship grew as they met up at the Mothers and Toddlers in Maze Presbyterian Church and three years later in 2002, Julie gave birth to Joshua and a fortnight later Gaye had twins Helen and Brian who, because they were premature, had to be moved to the Ulster Hospital where they spent five weeks in SCBU. Both were discharged but Brian was admitted into the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children with septic arthritis in his arm. Joshua was also back in hospital and was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan Anaemia and needed blood transfusions every three weeks to stay alive.
Some weeks later Gaye was told her son Brian also had a rare genetic disorder - Fanconi's Anaemia - for which there is no known cure. He was the first child in Northern Ireland ever to have the condition. Gaye said: "Brian had been lent to our family, not given."
Meanwhile the Fletcher family were told that though Josh had a chance to survive and lead a normal and fulfilling life, it would mean the family would have to go through a traumatic time. They would have to have a so called 'saviour sibling' for Josh through WE to create an exact match for a bone marrow transplant when needed.
Gaye was delighted the Fletcher family had been given hope, but she had unforeseen battles of her own.
"I didn't have the same sort of chance with my little Brian, so I decided to do as much fundraising as I could to help Julie and Joe with the expenditure for this procedure," said Gaye. Gaye raised an amazing £15,000 in just six months. I was delighted to be able to help and emotionally it helped me cope with what we had ahead,' said Gaye.
In October 2004 Jodie was conceived after a lengthy battle which involved a change in the legal guidance in the UK, the matching sibling for Joshua. But in Gaye's case things took a turn for the worse. Brian's twin Helen, who seemed to be the healthier child, took ill and was diagnosed with HLH which would require chemotherapy. Helen responded well to treatment at first and in April 2005 she was in remission. Two weeks later however Helen relapsed and Gaye was told her only daughter would need a bone marrow transplant at Bristol Children's Hospital if she was to survive.
Gaye was devastated. She knew Helen had to go, but it meant the family would be split.
This meant leaving Adam and Brian in Northern Ireland separating my family, I was devastated," said Gaye.
Adam was an exact match and donated his bone marrow to Helen, a procedure that took place on his sixth birthday June 24, 2005.
Again Helen responded well and on July 14 Gaye was told Helen could be discharged and attend the hospital on a daily basis.
It was during this time Gaye got a text from Julie to tell her the good news she had given birth to Jodie, Joshua's saviour sibling.
"I remember sitting downstairs in the hospital receiving the text. I was delighted. I phoned her straight away and said You have got your wee daughter and I am getting mine home'.
"I will never forget that feeling of total joy for both our families."
But the joy was short lived as Helen became ill again. She took what is known as acute graf verses and all her organs began to shut down. "I was heartbroken," said Gaye. "My little girl was losing her courageous fight."
Helen (3) died six months after her diagnosis on August 10, 2005. "Our lives had a huge void and continue to do so" Gaye said.
She said through the incredibly difficult time she got strength from the love and help of the Fletcher family.
Both Adam Fletcher and Adam Kerr were in the same class at Meadowbridge Primary School and in September 2006 Brian Kerr and Josh Fletcher started primary one together.
Gaye recalls how in times that were hard - like Helen's birthday on February 24 - the families would come together to give solace to each other.
"Joe and Julie have been great letting Brian and Joshua have joint birthday parties and helping me cope on a day that would have been Helen's birthday too," said Gaye.
In July this year the Fletchers were told doctors had found that Josh had an extremely high overload in his liver. The time had come for him to get a bone marrow transplant from Jodie.
Josh continues to have constant treatment to prepare for the transplant. He will get 24 hour a day treatment until February when he leaves for St Mary's Hospital in London.
Jodie is expected to fly out to London a fortnight after Julie, Joe and Josh to donate her bone marrow and to return home alone, to allow her brother to recover.
"What the Fletcher family have ahead of them is never far from my thoughts and when I was approached by another mother at the school, Leanne Dillon, asking would I support a coffee morning or raise funds for the Fletchers I knew I wanted to do something more special for them." said Gaye.
She contacted local businesses who have made generous donations. Scooby Ireland, who do lots of charity work, have organised a 24 Subaru convoy.
Gaye said: "I cannot believe how the people have responded, it is impossible to thank them all individually but I hope they will know how much this means to us."
The party is open to all. Anyone who would like to help can ring Gaye on 07796540489.
AMONG the local businesses who have helped with the Good Luck party or made donations towards the ballot are Music Galleria, donated a ukelele; a football table from Centra, Moira; WWE tickets from Lloyd Acoustics; a rocking snail from Frederick Thomas; DVD player from Lisnasure; a CD player from Dowd's; signed NI football from IFA; Edenderry Golf Club donated a round of golf for four; Jumpin Jacks donated a birthday party for 15 children; Agnew Cooperative a car valet; Smyth Patterson a baby born doll; www.Antrimfun.com cars and a bouncy castle for the day.
Other donations are from Karen Francis, Moira £50 beauty voucher; Perfect Image £25 beauty voucher; International donated a Turkish massage and a spa; wash cut and blow dry were donations from Cut Backs and Bleu; meals for two from the Four Trees and Pretty Mary's; Inigma a beautiful necklace set; Boots, Moira perfume. There are also a bike helmet from Hicklands; a nail voucher from Elaine Kennedy, and Vic Ryn also donated a prize. Hendersons and Kirk Home Bakery are donating food on the day.
The entrance fee to the party is £2 for adults which includes tea/coffee and a tray bake and kids are free.
Gaye would like to thank Meadowbridge and Busy Bees for their continuous support.
Other attractions on the day are balloon modelling, face and nail painting, children's tattoos , a duck shoot, Nintendo and Play Station games and a chocolate fountain.
There will also be Subutteo football, duck fishing and basketball. The organisers would also like to thank Rev William Henry for the use of the church hall.