BRAVE little fighter Archie Holder-McNish may look the picture of health now.
But his infectious smile masks an ordeal which left him on a hospital bed, fighting childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) at just 18 months old.
Archie’s fateful day came exactly two years ago when he was one of the 400 new diagnoses of the condition made every year in the UK in children.
Looking back on their nightmare, his family have spoken on the toddler, now aged three, whose courage knows no bounds.
Archie’s dad Thomas, 34, is a mobile response officer for G4S while mum Nicola, 32, works as a teaching assistant at a school in Ryhope.
Nicola described her little boy’s diagnosis as “a massive shock.” She said it all happened over a weekend when bruises appeared and he generally became unwell.
Dad Thomas told the Echo: “Archie was taken to Sunderland hospital where they said it looks like leukaemia. They phoned an ambulance and the next thing we knew, we were on the way to the Royal Victoria Infirmary with the blue lights going.”
In the nightmare hours that followed, medical experts had to put a canula into Archie’s neck so they could inject him with medicines. Thomas described the day of that operation as “the worst in my life.”
“I don’t remember much about what happened that day but I remember the hospital telling us Archie had a better chance because he’d got this as a child,” he added.
But while his parents handled the shock of Archie being admitted to hospital, mum Nicola praised her brave little fighter for showing “great courage and strength”.
She added: “Throughout his illness, he has kept the rest of the family going with his infectious smile despite all he has been through. Dad Thomas added: “Nothing seemed to faze him.”
Archie spent almost a month on an RVI ward before coming home.
Thomas said: “I have to say, everyone at the RVI has been fantastic, from the nursing staff to the consultants.”
Now, Archie faces a constant round of treatments for his condition. He has check-ups every fortnight to check his blood cell count. He has lumbar punctures every three months to check the marrow in his bone.
He has blood transfusions and regular doses of chemotherapy to kill the leukaemia cells.
But Archie is doing well. He is back home and he and his eight-year-old sister Lily are both pupils at St Anne’s Primary School, in Pennywell.
However, the whole family, from Haydon Square on the Hylton Lane Estate in Sunderland, had a night off when they attended the Best of Wearside awards to see Archie pick up his trophy as one of our Children of Courage.
And even then, it was touch and go whether Archie would get there.
Archie faced his latest health scare when he was rushed back into the RVI just a week ago.
Nicola said: “He needed to have blood, then had a reaction to it, but he is much better now.”
The best news possible could come in April 2016. That’s when, if all goes well, Archie will have final tests to confirm he can be given the all-clear.
Thomas said: “We are just hoping that day will come.”
In the meantime, for more photographs and interviews from the awards, make sure you get tomorrow’s Sunderland Echo which includes a 12-page supplement - filled with interviews from our winners.