TWO Newcastle doctors inspired by the story of leukaemia victim Josie Grove, who turned down treatment to live her dying days to the full, are heading to Thailand in support of Josie’s legacy to others.
Gail Halliday and Shelley Nair will work with terminally-ill children in northern Thailand under the Wishing Well Foundation project supported by Josie’s mother Jacqui since 2008.
It is the Thai equivalent of Josie’s Dragonfly Trust, which the Corbridge teenager set up before her death in February 2007, and which has now made 386 cash gifts of £500 to dying children in the UK, totalling £193,000.
For the two RVI-based doctors, backing Josie’s inspirational cause as well as working with sick Thai children is a double ambition come true.
Josie, the eldest of four children, lived with her parents Jacqui and Cliff in the Thai capital Bangkok from the age of six until she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia aged 14 in 2004. Flown back to the UK after a spell in a Bangkok hospital, Josie underwent an initial bone marrow transplant in London then came to Newcastle General Hospital for a second transplant under oncologist Rod Skinner.
But after two years of treatment and with no hope of recovery, she bravely turned down further chemotherapy to get the most out of her final days with her family in Corbridge.
Josie died five years ago tomorrow at the age of 16 and Gail, of Gosforth, who works alongside Mr Skinner at the RVI, said: “I’ve always known of Josie since I started working at the RVI unit shortly after she died. She is still a name that is often talked about.
“I didn’t know Josie personally, but Rod suggested the Thailand Dragonfly Trek last year.
“We dedicate our lives to making the lives of children better, and it is nice to be able to go to Thailand and make the lives of those children, who have had so little, a little bit better.” The Dragonfly Trust, which is run by Jacqui Grove and a team of volunteers, has arranged a series of fundraising events including three Thailand treks.
One trek, fully booked, sets off next week, while Gail, 30, and Shelley, 32, will go in November. A third trek has been fixed for February 2013.
Their destination is a Thai orphanage in a remote village in the northern Chiang Mai district, where among other things the Trust will donate 20 water filters.
In Thailand, due to their Buddhist beliefs, families decide, like Josie, not to have treatment where there is a low chance of success, and return home to be with their families to the end.
Shelley, of Heaton, said: “From what I have learned of Josie, she was an outgoing girl, and rather than fall apart she had a very positive outlook.
“She is a strong inspiration, and this has been her way of making life a little bit nicer for other children.”