Middleton mum urges parents to be aware of signs of leukaemia after son's devastating diagnosis

Harvey Robertson, 16, from Middleton,
Harvey Robertson tried to treat his pain with paracetamol and ibuprofen Credit: MEN Media

A Greater Manchester mum is urging parents to keep an eye on their children’s health, after her teenage son's back and leg pains turned out to be signs of leukaemia.

Jessica Cooke, from Middleton, realised Harvey Robertson, 16, was struggling after he’d initially tried to treat his pain with paracetamol and ibuprofen but soon found himself struggling to walk.

Doctors at The Royal Oldham Hospital checked Harvey and sent him home with a prescription for diazepam after saying his back felt tight - but his symptoms did not improve.

Credit: MEN Media

Jessica, who is a nurse, ran Harvey a warm bath to try to soothe the pain when she noticed he had a rash on his feet that had spread to his arms.

Jessica said: "As he came out of the bath he noticed a rash coming on his arm and said he had it on his feet. All I could describe it as was speckly, like burst blood vessels where the blood comes to the surface of the skin.

Days later, on February 14, after struggling to get hold of a GP, Jessica and her partner Stuart Robertson called 111. Paramedics arrived at the house and took Harvey back to A&E in Oldham. He was given morphine to help cope with the extreme pain he was suffering and had turned very pale.

A consultant made the decision to take some blood tests from Harvey where it was revealed Harvey had leukaemia.

Jessica said: "They came back in straight away and told us it was leukaemia. It was horrendous. His dad was with him and I was at home. When they phoned me to tell me I remember just screaming. I broke down.

"We couldn't believe it. I couldn't wrap my head around it or process what was going on at first. Then I got my nurses head on and asked straight away what the next steps were."

Harvey was transferred to Royal Manchester Children's Hospital where further tests revealed that the teenager had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer that starts from white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow. 

ALL typically develops quickly over days or weeks and is the most common type of leukaemia to affect children.

Jessica said: "In my head, I just knew we were going to get the worst news from those results, which we did. Within the day they were telling us the treatment plan for Harvey."

From February 15, a four-week long treatment of gruelling and intensive chemotherapy commenced as part of the induction stage, with Harvey now taking three lots of medication each week.

Doctors will review how Harvey is responding to the treatment and he will remain bedbound in hospital for weeks. Credit: MEN Media

Doctors will review how Harvey is responding to the treatment and he will remain bedbound in hospital for weeks. The experience has prompted Jessica to warn other parents about the symptoms.

Jessica said: "Harvey could be stuck there for months, it all just depends on how his body reacts, although because of his age, they do generally have positive outcomes.

"I've got four other children, so we are juggling that at the moment too, whilst also wanting to be here with Harvey constantly.

"It's an absolute whirlwind, an emotional rollercoaster, but from going through this we know how important it is to not just accept the first answer you're given if you feel something is wrong.

"Especially because children and teenagers have falls or bumps all the time, but it could still be something sinister. My fear is other teenagers could present with these pains and not know they are at risk. They just need a simple blood tests to get the answers and rule it out."

In a statement, Jonathan Moise, Oldham Care Organisation Medical Director said: "We are in contact with Harvey’s mum about her son’s treatment.

"Due to patient confidentiality, we are unable to discuss specific details around an individual’s care and treatment.”  

Friends have since launched a fundraising page to help support the family, with Jessica having to take time off work to care for Harvey.