Four-year-old Archie Wilks appears to be “out the other side” of Covid-19, although he caught the virus during treatment for a rare childhood cancer, his family has said.
Archie’s parents Simon and Harriet did all they could to protect Archie, who has neuroblastoma, from coronavirus.
His identical twin brother Henry was taken out of school early and the family self-isolated at home in Saffron Walden, Essex, for more than two weeks as a precaution.
“We only had a community nurse visit a couple of times and some trips to the day unit where we kept away from whoever we possibly could and stayed outside to keep away from the waiting room,” Mr Wilks told the PA news agency.
“But despite all the efforts, apparently Archie was still the first child oncology patient to be tested positive at Addenbrooke’s and potentially in the UK. Typical of Archie!”
Archie developed a fever at the day unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge after starting a course of chemotherapy and immunotherapy and was quickly moved to a coronavirus ward where he was diagnosed with Covid-19.
Mr Wilks said Archie often gets flu-like symptoms due to his treatment so until he developed a fever, they put his cough and tiredness down to that.
“It was scary to be moved into the coronavirus ward as we had no real information about how a child in his position might cope with the virus,” he told PA.
Archie and his father spent six days in a hospital room which Mr Wilks dubbed the Covid-19 “man-cave”, with nurses and doctors wearing “the full gear” when they had to enter.
He praised staff who “made me feel at ease in what could be a worrying situation to most parents”.
Archie had to wait 48 hours for his results but Addenbrooke’s has now started using portable Samba II machines, developed by a University of Cambridge spin-off company called Diagnostics For The Real World, which can diagnose Covid-19 in less than 90 minutes.
“It’s great they have the quicker test in place now as that would have settled everyone’s minds a lot faster, rather than waiting two days,” said Mr Wilks, a manager for motor insurance company HIC in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire.
“It’s obviously a great thing for the NHS staff to have results for themselves sooner as well if they think they have symptoms.”
The family – who have all had coronavirus symptoms – were reunited on April 1 when doctors said Archie was well enough to be safer in isolation at home.
“I know Harriet found it hard at home with Henry. We’ve been in a similar position countless times in the last year but obviously the other was able to leave the house or interact with others to take our mind off the situation, but the isolation at home made it harder,” Mr Wilks said.
Archie was tired and needed oxygen overnight for a few days but on Thursday his family told supporters on the Archie’s Journey Facebook page: “Archie’s definitely out the other side of the virus with no cough and no need for oxygen.”
Mr Wilks told PA: “Luckily because we had been so cautious, isolating early and completely, we wouldn’t have come into contact with many people during any potential stage of him having the virus, which was helpful to mentally deal with the positive result, knowing we wouldn’t have caused any potential harm to anyone else.
“It’s reassuring for other parents to see that a vulnerable child like Archie has coped well so far with the virus but we obviously don’t want anyone thinking it’s a good idea to not worry about their children contracting it.”
The Tottenham Hotspur fan was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in January 2019 after becoming ill and unable to stand a few weeks earlier.
Two tumours were found around his kidney and spine and the disease had spread to other areas, including his bones and bone marrow.
While Mr Wilks, 31, and his 30-year-old wife – an auditor for the same insurance firm – care for their twins, others are donating and raising money to enable Archie to take part in a vaccine trial in the US which could reduce the chance of the cancer returning once Archie is in remission. More than £180,000 has already been raised.
Mr Wilks said 50% of children successfully treated for neuroblastoma will relapse. Of whose who relapse, 90% will not survive.
The vaccine trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York “will look to reduce the chance of that happening and allow us all to know we have done everything possible to give Archie the best chance at life”, he added.
To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/archiesjourney.