Newport boy beats coronavirus while fighting cancer

PUBLISHED: 10:08 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:19 16 April 2020

Archie upon being released  from Addebrooke's Hospital following his Covid-19 admission. Photo: Archie's Journey/Facebook.

Archie upon being released from Addebrooke's Hospital following his Covid-19 admission. Photo: Archie's Journey/Facebook.

Archie's Journey/Facebook

A four-year-old boy from Newport, near Saffron Walden with a rare form of cancer has beaten Covid-19 and spread positivity and hope across the country.

Archie during his coronavirus admission at Addenbrooke's Hospital. Photo: Archie's Journey/Facebook.Archie during his coronavirus admission at Addenbrooke's Hospital. Photo: Archie's Journey/Facebook.

Archie Wilks, who lives with his dad, Simon, mum Harriet and twin brother Henry, was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma in January 2019.

Speaking to the Reporter in November last year, Simon spoke of how shocked and scared they felt upon hearing the news which ‘turned their lives upside down’. The diagnosis meant Archie could not go to preschool because of his ‘null’ immune system and could not play much with other children.

“I showed Archie a picture from before, when he had hair, and he said: ‘Oh, there are two Henrys!’ He didn’t recognise himself,” Simon said.

Archie’s family took a lot of precautions to protect Archie from the new coronavirus, as they would generally with any other virus, as he is susceptible to them because he is immunosuppressed as a result of his cancer treatment. It came as a surprise to the parents that the child has somehow picked up Covid-19 - but they said “there is only so much you can do” and some things are unavoidable.

Archie and his twin brother, Henry (4) during a hospital admission for cancer checks last year. Photo: Archie's Journey/Facebook.Archie and his twin brother, Henry (4) during a hospital admission for cancer checks last year. Photo: Archie's Journey/Facebook.

Archie had symptoms for two weeks, but he has been feeling well for the past week.

Simon said: “We took his brother out of school about a week before schools closed, it’s been weeks of complete isolation.”

Archie is currently undergoing both chemotherapy and immunotherapy, and the secondary effects of the latter are similar to those of the virus – a cough, runny nose and fever – so the family initially put his symptoms down to the cancer treatment: “He got a cough about three days in. Five days into treatment they took observations and saw he has temperature,” Simon said, adding:

“As soon as they came with a positive result, we were shut there.”

The Wilks family. Photo: Archie's Journey/Facebook.The Wilks family. Photo: Archie's Journey/Facebook.

Luckily, because he was the first child oncology patient to test positive at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and one of the first in the UK, the care was available promptly: “Because he was the first in, the doctors and nurses were trying their best and did a really good job.”

Archie and Simon were taken to the ‘Covid’ ward where they stayed for six days, while Archie needed oxygen supply. Simon was not allowed to get out, and had to ring the bell and advise the nurse he would go to the toilet every time that was the case. A cleaner would come straight away and clean the toilet. When NHS staff came to bring them breakfast, Simon said they would always wear full personal protection equipment (PPE).

The parents were worried when Archie’s oxygen levels dropped overnight to an “unacceptable level”, especially as it is a new virus and “doctors don’t know as much about it”.

“It’s much more scary when it’s a new virus,” Simon said, and, what is more, Archie already had problems with his lungs, so he was also particularly vulnerable because of that.

Because of the parents’ previous experience with monitoring Archie’s lungs, they were allowed to take Archie home and give him oxygen for approximately four more nights, after which “his lungs filled up and got better”. The family was already signed up to an oxygen supply scheme, which put them in a different position to parents of a healthy child.

Archie was meant to start his next chemotherapy session next week, but it was postponed for another week due to hopes from doctors that the coronavirus situation in the UK will improve.

Simon highlighted how important isolation is, as, although his family did not come in contact with any people to protect Archie, if they had not isolated, they could have unknowingly spread it themselves.

Archie’s recovery story reached thousands of people across the UK, and a lot of people have sent messages regarding the positive impact the news had on them.

Simon said: “We had people supporting us, messages from other parents of children with cancer saying how much it relieved off stress to see Archie get better. We thought the same, that if Archie got it, we won’t have much of a chance.

“We had a few people saying how much it helped their mental health. There is so much sad news and people not being able to survive it, and people are happy to see that a child who is so vulnerable managed to fight it off.

“Hopefully people have seen his story and keep positive, do everything they possibly can to keep their children and themselves safe.”

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