Rachel’s Story

In the spring of 1986, Sergeant Steve Jevons, stationed at Wolverhampton, and his wife Vicky, herself a former policewoman, were blessed with the birth of a daughter, Rachel Elizabeth, to join their growing family.

Then in 1989, when Rachel was three years old, she was diagnosed with leukaemia and immediately began a series of long chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions. Regular treatment took place over the next two-and-a-half years, administered at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, also in Birmingham and New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, more local to the family home.

Having come to terms with the initial shock, the family rallied round and set about starting a fund to aid the treatment of leukaemia in children. And, recognising the value of treatment that Rachel was getting, Steve’s BTP colleagues at Birmingham and Wolverhampton soon joined in the fundraising. In 1990 they organised a fifty-mile sponsored walk right across the heart of Wales from the English border to the coastal resort of Barmouth. Known as Offa’s Alternative, because although most people walked all or part of the route, two officers cycled it and one ran the whole distance. Many colleagues, their family and friends, as well as a team of Venture Scouts, took part. More than a hundred people faced the challenge of Offa’s Alternative on the day. This included Rachel and her three brothers Adam, Ben and Stuart although Rachel and the youngest son, Stuart, were pushed by Mum in a double buggy most of the way, although both insisted on walking across the impressive Barmouth estuary bridge at the end. This highly successful event raised a large amount of money which, when put together with other fundraising activities over a three year period, meant there was enough money to buy medical equipment for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and New Cross Hospital as well as a £5,000 donation to Leukaemia Research at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Much of Rachel’s regular treatment was at New Cross Hospital, administered by Consultant Paediatrician Dr Deepak Kalra, and the doctor and the patient soon developed a friendly and trusting relationship. Rachel finished her treatment in September 1991 but continued having six monthly check ups for five years, before it became an annual check up, which it still remains to this day.

Rachel started school in September 1991 and coped very well in spite of suffering from a number of side effects from the chemotherapy and radiotherapy (and she still receives treatment for some of these today). But she enjoyed school and life in general and developed a love of cricket and football. She followed her three brothers into local and county teams for both sports. And she went on to play cricket for Fordhouse Ladies Team and Staffordshire Ladies Team.

So, very much a success story with a happy ending. But it does not stop there, in a remarkable twist it has become a truly heart-warming tale. After she left school at sixteen, Rachel attended Wolverhampton College for a two-year BTEC course in nursery nursing – she had always expressed an interest in working with children herself. After several positions with local private nurseries, in January 2009 she was pleased to accept a post as auxiliary nurse on the Children’s ward at New Cross Hospital. To her surprise and delight when she started the job she found that the Consultant Paediatrician in charge of her ward was none other than Dr Deepak Kalra. He too is delighted that she has chosen this career path and he often tells parents of children on the ward that she is one of his great success stories. Rachel and her parents, certainly regard him as one of the team that helped to save her life. Rachel has begun a part time degree course in her own time, at Wolverhampton University on Early Years management. Her parents, Steve and Vicky, are not surprised at her determination and are eternally grateful to all the medical staff who helped to ensure that Rachel survived, as well as to all their colleagues, friends and family who supported them in so many ways through a very traumatic time.

Revised from a letter by Steve Jevons in 2011.