Jake spent five months at Great Ormond Street Hospital after he was diagnosed with AML, a rare form of leukaemia.
Meet Jake, age 12, as he talks about his experiences in this inspirational film.
Jake: “Hello, my name is Jake. I’m 11 years old and I’ve just recovered from AML – a rare, aggressive form of leukaemia.
Jake: “Up until February this year I was as fit and healthy as can be. To say that I was shocked to hear I had leukaemia would be the understatement of the year.
“I got here and at first I was really, really scared, really like – out my pants really – jumping out of them because it was such a big hospital and I was just terrified of what they were going to do to me.
“When I got there I realised that it wasn’t so bad. Great Ormond Street Hospital is the biggest centre for children’s cancer in the UK, so I knew I was in safe hands.”
Dr Webb, Jake’s consultant: “Leukaemia is a situation where the bone marrow, which is the part of the body which makes blood cells, concentrates on making one type of cell just white cells. And because of that it’s unable to make the other types of blood cell – the red cells which carry oxygen round the body and the small cells called platelets which stop bleeding and bruising. And sadly it’s inevitable that the person will become very sick and without treatment it’s a fatal condition.”
Jake: “I hate needles so I hated the millions of tests I had to have and I started chemotherapy which made me feel sick and tired.
“Today I’m having mitoxantrone and cytarabine – it’s two hours’ worth. I can move out of my room but I have to take this stand here with the pumps, which pumps it through my Hickman line. It connects to this and it pumps through an average of 125mls an hour.”
Dr Webb: “To treat myeloid leukaemia the combination of chemotherapy must be very strong. So unfortunately it’s the case that by giving the drugs we make children quite unwell. The person starts off and they feel alright then it’s bit of a surprise and a shock to them that actually having the treatment can make them feel more unwell for a limited period of time.”
Jake: “A few weeks later my problems really started. For no apparent reason, my temperature soared to 40 degrees and I started coughing up blood.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t breath on my own so I had to go into intensive care and be put in an induced coma and on a ventilator to help me breathe. I don’t remember anything about it.
Dr Webb: “When Jake became critically ill he developed severe breathing problems and I’m sure that the reason that he took it so well was because the intensive care team are such high quality here.”
Learning to walk again
Jake: “When I first came out of my coma, absolutely nothing happened. I just lay there, still. Eventually I opened my eyes, but apart from the occasional blink I did not respond to anything.
“I had to re-learn how to eat, swallow, drink, speak, walk and dress. I was determined to get better.
“After so long without moving my muscles had wasted away but I worked with the physiotherapists and after nine long weeks I taught my body how to walk again.”
Karen, Jake’s mum: “Everything that you would have with a baby, he’s had to do everything again and he’s had such a good mental attitude towards the whole process. All Jake’s wanted to do is to be able to get up and kick a ball again and that’s what we’ve been reminding him of every single time we’ve had to do any exercises that he’s hated, he might have cried – we’ve all cried when we’ve been doing it – but that’s the goal that he wants to get to so we’ve got to do it to get to that goal.”
Lucy Waller, Jake’s physiotherapist: “He’s been an inspiration really for other children but also he’s been just so exciting to work with because every single day he gets better. Both him and all of his family are so motivated which makes my job much, much easier.”
Going back home
Jake: “Very tired today. Exhausted.
“And I still had three more courses of chemotherapy to go through to beat my leukaemia. But this time I didn’t get really ill and I even managed to keep up with my school work at the hospital school.
“After six long months in hospital my leukaemia was beaten and I was finally allowed to go home.
“The best thing about being home is seeing all my friends again. Soon it’s my birthday and I’m going to have a big bowling party and see all of them and get together, just like we did before.”
Karen: “He’s never moaned at all. He’s just been always, always so positive. I don’t know if I could have done that. I’m so incredibly – and everyone is so incredibly proud of him. He’s done so well.”
Jake: “You can’t thank the hospital enough for what they’ve given you and what they sort out for you. It’s just amazing and that’s why I love this hospital so much. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for them.
“If I can get through that I can get through anything, so now I just can’t wait to get on with my life.”