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20 December 2021

Home in time for Christmas - Freya's story

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After ten blood transfusions in two months, six-year old Freya finally made it home for her family Christmas in 2020.

On the 5th of November 2020, the Giffnock tot was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Parents Louise and Adam initially feared she had contracted Covid-19. 

Mum Louise says, 'For a couple of weeks, Freya just wasn't herself. We thought she had Covid-19 but thankfully, her tests were all negative. When Freya was sent home from school feeling sick and complaining of a sore knee, we knew something was wrong. At that time, it was only video appointments, but thankfully, our GP sent us straight to the Children's Hospital. Freya was admitted that day, diagnosed by 8pm and received her first blood transfusion at 3am the next morning.'

Freya in hospital.

'Freya was still laughing and joking, and you would never have known over 90% of her cells were leukaemia cells. We felt so lucky that we were in the hospital when her red blood cell and platelet count crashed. We are so grateful the blood was there in the middle of the night. That’s the reason Freya was strong enough to start treatment. Within days, she received her first dose of chemotherapy.'

 

Freya and her family before she was diagnosed.

'Because of Covid-19 restrictions' we felt very alone during the first few months of Freya's treatment. To know people were out there' selflessly giving blood for her, just means the world to us.'

After many transfusions and countless other treatments, Freya was able to go home in December 2020. This was the longest she had ever been apart from nine year old sister Eliza and little brother Harris, just two years old. 

Freya with her sister, Eliza and brother Harris

Louise continued, 'Covid-19 restrictions meant the girls hadn't seen each other since the 5th of November, it hit them both hard. Eliza didn't want to put the star on top of the Christmas tree until Freya was home. On her first night back, she was too weak to stand, watching Adam lift her to put the star on the tree was a really emotional moment. I could not have been prouder of her and how far she'd come over the last few weeks. Christmas itself was a day of mixed emotions; Freya wasn’t very well and slept most of the day but powered through to open presents. Having her home and us all being together was the best gift ever.'

Watching her it hit me, the enormity, that someone had given their blood and Freya would feel a bit better afterwards. Louise Pennington

38% of blood donations are used to treat patients with cancer and blood diseases, who often receive a mixture of red blood cells and platelet transfusions. 

'Sometimes Freya would have nosebleeds that just would not stop until she had a platelet transfusion. It's such a small transfusion and it takes a long time to receive but the difference is unbelievable.'

Louise remembers one blood transfusion in particular. 'One day Freya really wasn't well from the side effects of treatment. She was lethargic, very sick; she had lots of mouth ulcers and sores. The doctor could tell, just by looking at her, she would need a blood transfusion that day. Watching her it hit me, the enormity, that someone had given their blood and Freya would feel a bit better afterwards. I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude that someone had donated this for Freya to feel better. It wasn't a tablet created in a lab, but a real person who had made her better. I just wanted to say thank you to anyone who had given up their time to donate.'

Your festive donation last year may have been the one that saved our little girl Louise Penington

Louise and Adam, both managers in Primark stores, are blood donors themselves. Louise first gave blood at just 17, when she was about to start university. 

'It was so easy and I loved the biscuit at the end. As a blood donor, you might never see where it goes, but as a parent of a child who needs blood transfusions, I can't express how important it is. I'd like to say a huge thank you to anyone who gave blood, especially during Covid-19 - it’s remarkable. We have a huge amount of gratitude for each one of you. Your festive donation last year may have been the one that saved our little girl.'

 

Freya back at Braidbar Primary

'Freya has finished frontline treatment now, but still has another 18 months of maintenance. This includes daily chemo, as well as weekly and monthly treatments in hospital. Some of the procedures Freya has gone through are pretty nasty, but she never complains. She is not a fan of needles, but she is so brave with every treatment. She is fascinated by medicine, always reading books on the human body and would like to be a doctor or a nurse when she grows up. Her mobility is coming back and she is delighted to be back at Braidbar Primary.'

Freya's treatment continues.

'This time last year was so tough, but this year, we are looking forward to a fun family Christmas. Thank you to all the staff and anyone who has given blood or platelets. It's literally lifesaving. I can't even think about where we would be without you.'

  • If you've been inspired by Freya's story you can book now to give blood or platelets. 
  • If you never given blood before or if we've not seen you in a while we'd be delighted to give you a warm welcome.
  • You can book your appointment by creating your online donor account at scotblood.co.uk, contacting us online, or by phoning 0345 90 90 999 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).

Current blood stock levels across Scotland Wednesday 26 January

We aim to retain 6 days of stocks at any time in order to meet the requirements of patients in Scotland.

Learn more about blood types