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Child cancer patients brave the elements at Schiehallion

Patients, families and staff from Glasgow Children’s Hospital in high spirits on the Fairy Hill despite the dreich conditions.

For the fourth year in a row, patients, family and staff from the Schiehallion Unit of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Glasgow visited the mountain which inspired its name.

The annual family day – a collaboration between the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity and the John Muir Trust – took place this year under dreich, grey skies and relentless rain. Despite the conditions, over 60 attended, with half the group climbing the mountain while the rest participated in other activities at the basecamp.

First to reach the summit was 12-year old Anthony a former patient at the unit, who has climbed Schiehallion every year since 2015, and knows the mountain so well he has become the unofficial  mountain guide for the group.

The expedition to the top of the Fairy Hill of the Caledonians was the first Munro for sixteen-year-old Katie, who was diagnosed with leukaemia last October and will be on medication for the rest of her life.

Another intrepid adventurer, 13-year-old Abigail, has battled all her life with severe health problems. Just a few days after she was born, she had to undergo open heart surgery and was fitted with a mechanical heart before going on to have a transplant. Last year, she was dealt a further devastating setback after being diagnosed with cancer. But  even after her courageous health battles, she still managed to climb a long way up the mountain path along with her mum, dad and younger sister.

For those who were unable to tackle the might of Schiehallion, there was a range of activities down on the foothills, including fire lighting, tree planting, den building, face painting, and arts and crafts.  Families unable to attend contributed to a memory box containing messages and mementoes celebrating those young people who have undergone treatment at the unit.

Inevitably, some are no longer around. Last year nine-year-old  Marios was one of the faces of a successful million-pound fundraising appeal for the unit, launched on the slopes of Schiehallion. Tragically, Marios passed away just days before this year’s event. However his aunt and uncle – Donna and Mark – came along to pay tribute to their nephew and plant a tree in his honour – and to show solidarity with those undergoing treatment.

Douglas Samson, spokesperson for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “Despite the challenging weather conditions, the spirit of the children and their families shone through. Schiehallion holds a special place in the hearts of all those families whose loved ones have been treated here – and the unit itself was named over 20 years ago in recognition of the steep uphill journey for children battling cancer.

We’ve had a meaningful and memorable day on the mountain and are once again grateful to the John Muir Trust for their support and assistance.”

Liz Auty, the Trust’s Schiehallion Land Manager, said: “We’re always delighted to welcome the children, families and staff from the Glasgow Children’s Hospital – and we’d like to thank all those patients, mums, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and staff who braved the worst day of the summer to make this another inspirational occasion.”

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