Leeds & West Yorkshire

Father and son spend 26 days in Leeds hospital lockdown

Stephenson family Image copyright Stephenson family
Image caption James Stephenson (back right) and his son Oliver (front right) have not left Leeds General Infirmary for more than three weeks

A father who has spent 26 days in hospital while his son undergoes chemotherapy has described it as the "hardest thing I've ever done".

James Stephenson and his four-year-old son, Oliver, have not set foot outside Leeds General Infirmary since 27 April.

Oliver is being treated for stage four neuroblastoma, having been diagnosed with the rare cancer in January.

His mum, Laura, 34, and two-year-old brother, Alfie, have been unable to visit since he began the treatment.

Image copyright Stephenson family
Image caption Oliver, four, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in January

Oliver, from Ackworth, was admitted to hospital at the end of April for a round of high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell treatment.

He and his father have been "shielding" to protect against the threat of coronavirus while Oliver's immune system is weakened because of the chemotherapy. As a result neither of them have been able to leave the ward where Oliver is being treated.

The father and son share a room "about 4.5m (15ft) square" with a separate bathroom and a window.

"Oliver can't go out of his room at all," said Mr Stephenson.

"I can go out of the room and walk 15 yards up the corridor to get a drink but that's as far as I can go.

"That's as much as I've done and the only people I see are the nurses."

Image copyright Stephenson family
Image caption Oliver's mum, Laura, and brother, Alfie, have been unable to visit him in hospital

Mr Stephenson, who has been taking part in Joe Wicks' online PE classes in a bid to stay active during his isolation, said the family knew Oliver would have to stay in hospital for a minimum of four weeks but they had not anticipated it happening during the UK-wide lockdown.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done," he said.

"I don't think anything will ever compare."

Image copyright Stephenson family
Image caption Oliver's family are hoping to raise £230,000 so he can take part in a clinical trial in New York

Mrs Stephenson, meanwhile, has been unable to visit her husband and son during the latest stage of treatment.

The closest she has been able to get is to drop fresh clothes and supplies off at the hospital entrance where she can snatch a brief word with one of the nurses on her son's ward.

She said the couple kept in touch via FaceTime but watching her son battle his condition from afar had been "heartbreaking".

The family have been hoping to raise £230,000 to get Oliver to New York to take part in a clinical trial for a vaccine aimed at reducing the chance of relapse.

Their campaign has been backed by Wet Wet Wet singer Marti Pellow and Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet.

Mr Stephenson said "words can't describe the support we've had".

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