At 9-months-old Charlotte was given a 50% chance of survival. Here is her story.

Danielle O’Brien was concerned about her 9 month old daughter Charlotte. She wasn’t as ‘smiley’ as usual. She was sleeping much more than before and had a few bruises that just wouldn’t heal.

The local GP told Danielle these symptoms were normal for kids as they started to become more mobile, but Charlotte became increasingly unwell. Danielle finally took her to the local hospital, concerned that she was becoming dehydrated. The doctors took more blood samples and the paediatrician eventually came to tell Charlotte’s parents the bad news… there was something terribly wrong with her blood.

The family was put in an ambulance and sent to the Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick, where Charlotte was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. She was given only a 50% chance of survival and that would require very aggressive treatment.

mamamia care charlottes story feature
Charlotte with her mum and brother (Image: Pub2Pub)

When Danielle heard this diagnosis from the doctor, she reacted as most mums would: “You have to be wrong. I’ve done everything right.” When the oncology team started explaining to her the chemotherapy treatment options and likely side-effects, Danielle went into survival mode. She refused to accept how sick her daughter really was. Overwhelmed and in shock, she said to the doctor: “No. I’m taking Charlotte home.”

The doctor calmly replied: “I’m sorry, but if you take her home, she will die.” Danielle and Charlotte didn’t leave hospital for seven weeks… and for the following six months, they spent more time in hospital than at home. Charlotte had weekly bone marrow biopsies, lumbar punctures, chemo., intrathecal chemo., constant blood and platelet transfusions and had to be fed via a tube. Her first few surgeries resulted in serious drops in her temperature, oxygen and heart rate… she needed constant monitoring.

Charlotte had a stem cell transplant in February 2010, just 2 months after her 1st birthday. Complications with her central line meant that she needed three extra surgeries and spent her 1st birthday fasting in preparation. But thankfully, after all this, the doctors told Danielle that her precious daughter was in remission.


Even then, Danielle says that the fear of a relapse after Charlotte had finished her treatment was unbearable, but “… we got through it, thanks to the incredible doctors, hospital staff and the results of ongoing research that reassured us.”

Charlotte celebrated five years in remission this year. She is a fearless, brave and strong-willed little person who loves ballet, gymnastics and reading. She dreams of being a doctor or a ballerina when she grows up.

While she faces a lifetime of possible side-effects from all the treatment she’s received and has yearly check-ups including tests on her heart and blood, Charlotte is a survivor. And that’s largely due to the research conducted by the Children’s Cancer Institute. Their vision is to save the lives of all children and eliminate their suffering. That’s why the Institute is a preferred charity of this year’s Pub2Pub Fun Run & Festival. Your participation in the event and that of those who sponsor you will raise funds for all 10 of our charity partners. We look forward to seeing you on Sunday August 23rd.

Image: Pub2Pub

Over 100 people are running this year’s Pub2Pub to raise money for Children’s Cancer Institute including 38 in Team A2B4C. You can join the team or support the cause at:

The Pub2Pub Fun Run is an iconic event on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  Everyone is welcome to join this fantastic event that’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity over 23 years. Featuring two runs, 14.5km from Dee Why to Newport or a family friendly 3km from Mona Vale. The run features a HUGE Family  friendly Finish Line Festival with licensed bar, food stalls, kids Activities and live music featuring Midnight Oil legend Rob Hirst and the Backsliders.

Join in a wonderful community activity and raise funds for worthy local causes. To register, simply click here.

More from Mamamia Cares:

I was in year 6 when cancer first knocked at our door.

Beautiful proof you don’t need to be religious to be charitable.

Why a 20-year-old-woman travelled halfway around the world to show she’s not a pussy

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