We’ll never forget Olivia

Katie Gallienne

Katie Gallienne

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Feature Writer

HER life was tragically brief but little Olivia Gallienne’s legacy lives on.

The two-year-old became the face of Southampton’s Race for Life after twice taking part in the Southampton event, despite battling leukaemia.

Now, two years after Olivia’s death, her mum Katie is expecting a baby boy – and she is naming him after the doctor that helped care for Olivia at Southampton General Hospital.

“Dr Mary Morgan became more like a family friend than a doctor,”

said Katie, 32. “She was so supportive.

It was an instinctive decision for us to name our baby, Morgan, after her.

“We wanted to keep that connection with the Piam Brown children’s ward because we spent so much time there.”

During her short life Olivia spent 616 days in hospital. At one point she was given just a five per cent chance of surviving a bone marrow transplant but she continued to prove the doctors wrong with her fighting spirit.

She even managed to toddle across the Race for Life finish line shortly after learning to walk again following a major set-back.

Sadly, just one month after charming the Race for Life crowds, Olivia suffered a mini-stroke and finally lost her battle to survive.

“No words can describe how much we still miss her,” says Katie who also has a nine-year-old daughter Jazmine with husband Andrew. “We always said that if anything happened to her we would try for another baby and I think Morgan was sent from her – she wants us to be happy.”

Katie – who has been named an Ambassador for Southampton’s Race for Life – hopes to take baby Morgan along to this year’s event on Southampton Common in July.

“All being well, he’ll be there in his buggy with balloons on. When he’s old enough I’ll tell him all about Olivia. I’ll tell him how brave she was.”

Today Katie and nine other regional Race for Life Ambassadors are taking part in the national launch of Race for Life 2009 at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

The event, which is being kept a closely guarded secret by Cancer Research UK, promises to be a star-studded occasion and Katie knows it will also be an emotional one.

“I was surprised and touched when I was asked to be an Ambassador,” she said. “Race for Life has become a family ritual for us – we do it for Olivia.

“It’s a comfort that she’s still making a difference and helping to raise money – it’s nice that she’s left that legacy.”

Race for Life facts and figures

● Race for Life is the UK’s largest women-only fundraising series – and the Southampton race is the biggest single event in the country.

● Last year 9,700 women walked, jogged or ran the event, which took place for the 12th time in the city and raised £564,500.

● Organisers are encouraging 10,000 women to put their best feet forward and raise £590,000.

● Women of all ages and fitness levels can take part in the 5k event and you don’t even have to run – many women walk the course.

● Cancer Research UK spent over £3million last year in Southampton on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research. The charity is funding a number of scientists at the University of Southampton who are investigating ways to harness the power of the immune system to help treat people with cancer.

● Southampton Race for Life participants will join 680,000 women from across the UK, taking part in over 230 events between May and July.

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