THE family of a little Wigan girl faces a desperate race against time to save her from a deadly cancer.
Four-year-old Emma Hoolin has had the year from hell after she was diagnosed with an aggressive stomach tumour.
She has undergone gruelling programmes of chemotherapy, surgery and stem cell rescue, punctuated by traumatising side-effects and prolonged spells in hospital. Radiotherapy comes next.
And yet it could all be for nought if she cannot get to America within weeks for pioneering antibody treatment as well.
High-risk neuroblastomas like the one Emma has had are intensely malignant and frequently return after even the most intensive of conventional treatments.
The course of drugs in the US offer the Hoolins the best chance of averting what would almost certainly be a fatal relapse by tackling the microscopic disease that causes it.
Her parents Mark and Jill have launched an urgent appeal to raise the colossal £211,000 needed to get her to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia by early November.
The experts say that the best chances of survival depend on her having this immunological treatment 100 days after the stem cell therapy which she has already undergone.
The couple, from Oak Hill Close, Whitley, who also have an eight-year-old daughter Lily, have been working round the clock enlisting the help of family, friends, schools and businesses. Thousands of posters and leaflets are being printed this week, collection boxes are being put in newsagents’ shops, two websites have been established to which folk can make donations - www.emmahoolin.co.uk and www.justgiving.com/hope4emma - and already fund-raising events are being organised.
Several schools, including Woodfield Primary at which Emma should have been starting as a pupil this month, are arranging money-spinners such as non-uniform days.
Emma’s maternal grandparents, Audrey and Roland Middleton, from Beech Hill, are also raising awareness and money.
Jill, who works in the labs at Wigan Infirmary, and electrician Mark, say they desperately want to give Emma the gift of life.
Jill said: “Emma is still laughing and making people laugh. The treatment she could get in America is her very best chance.
“But this is a race against the clock. Emma had a stem cell transplant and you are meant to have radiotherapy 60 days after that and then the antibody therapy on the 100th day which gives us until early November.
“It is a big ask but we are pulling out all the stops to help our little girl.”