IT was New Year’s Day in 2020, just like any other normal day, beginning the start of a new year ahead.

Ferne McLindon, now 13, and her family from Harwich, had not long celebrated her 11th birthday on December 30.

But Ferne was not feeling well. She went to the doctors on New Year’s Eve and was told she would probably be fine.

But on January 1, Ferne started to deteriorate and things took a rapid turn for the worse.

Her father Iain said: “We took her to Colchester Hospital straight into A&E, where she was then transferred to intensive care.

“She was really unwell, blood empty, all the signs of leukaemia but we couldn’t be sure.

“She was also suffering from sepsis, so her body was shutting down.”

After suffering from a multi-organ failure, Ferne was given a five per cent chance of survival.

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Iain said: “It is a horrific statistic for anyone to receive, let alone a parent.

“We were trying to understand how someone who walked through the door this morning, later that day was given that figure.”

In the days and weeks that followed, Ferne’s kidney failed, and her legs deteriorated, which led to an operation to remove her legs below the knees.

She also suffered from internal bleeding in the stomach before it failed too, therefore her stomach was completely removed as well.

Iain added: “The amputations were done, and it was really difficult, but Ferne had no recollection of it due to the medication and painkillers she was on.

“When she finally came round, we had to explain that they had to remove her legs below the knee. But she was really positive, with the attitude that ‘I’m still here, what is next’”.

In the weeks and months that followed, Ferne was in and out of Great Ormond Street Hospital in London with mum Claire, whilst Iain and Ferne's sister Isabel were at home.

Ferne then underwent for many of us what we only go through once in our lives, learning to walk again.

She spent months with a physio team learning how to walk with prosthetic legs, determined to get to how she once was.

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“It took a lot of time”, said Iain, “but once she got the hang of it, she flew.”

“The difference in going from the ward, where you are stuck in a ward and you can’t leave the room, to the physio, the team really brought her out of herself.

“I think there was real enjoyment once she realised she could do it again, and that was what we built on.

“We even offered to make some adaptations made to the house, even as small as a handrail by the back door, but she refused, she was determined to get back to normal on her own.

“I think from spending time in Great Ormond Street, she knew that there were children who are in a worse situation, and that has resonated through her.”

Ferne started her secondary school education at St Benedict’s in Colchester in October 2020 and continued her positive attitude.

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Iain said: “The school have been great, a big help.

“They offered us to come and pick her up on the school grounds to make it easier for her but once again she wasn’t having it.

“She wants us to wait down the road so she can walk with her friends and work back to how things were.

“As a parent, you obviously think I would prefer if you made it easier for you, but you have to support her decisions and, in another aspect, it makes us all proud that she has this mindset.

“Even when she was unwell she was like this, and for all of us it was obviously great to see.”

The family is hopeful that after August, Ferne can finish chemotherapy, and work to achieve her next dream of learning to run again and even becoming a Paralympian.

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 “She cannot wait to start running again”, Iain added. “The cancer treatment is the one delaying factor as her immune system is pressed through chemo.

“She is dead set on doing it, and running is the main thing, and we will, of course, support her through everything and encourage it. It is not anything we have suggested, she wants to do this stuff.

“Ferne is also big into swimming and had recently started swimming again at Leisure World Phoenix Club, but the problem we have is that the cancer treatment zaps her of energy, so she has stepped away, for the time being, hoping to pick it up again after August.

“She was always a sporty child, winning all her races in sports days, and she still has the medals in her room. I think she has her eyes firmly fixed on adding more.”

There is a fundraiser ongoing, with the cost of sports prosthetics and rehabilitation to help Ferne learn to run costing more than £20,000.

More than £16,000 has been raised through the school, as well as family and friends who continually support her.

To donate, visit