Leanne and Steve’s three-year-old son Oliver is set for a devastating diagnosis which will leave his family reeling.
The youngster previously suffered an apparent seizure, but when he was taken to hospital doctors said he had probably experienced a febrile convulsion – a relatively common but usually harmless medical incident which affects children.
However, parents Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) and Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson) will hear much more serious news after Oliver suffers another seizure this week.
He will be rushed to hospital for tests, where doctors start to fear his symptoms could indicate something much more severe – especially when he experiences yet another seizure. Oliver, who is played by young actors Emmanuel and Jeremiah Cheetham, will then be diagnosed with a Mitochondrial disorder.
As a Corrie spokesperson puts it, “In the months to come Leanne and Steve will be forced to come to terms with the heartbreaking diagnosis which will leave Oliver with a life limiting illness for which there is currently no cure.”
To develop the storyline, Coronation Street’s research team has worked closely with The Lily Foundation, a charity that supports families and funds research into mitochondrial disease; they also consulted with Professor Robert McFarland from the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research in Newcastle.
Jane Danson said “We’ve worked closely with Liz Curtis at The Lily Foundation. It was harrowing hearing the story of what happened to her daughter Lily but also really amazing to hear how people come through this, how they support each other and learn to live again. It’s almost too much to comprehend but I came away from the meeting bowled over by her bravery and how amazing she is as a human being. She shared with me how she felt emotionally, how she got through her days, how people rallied around her.
“I’ve also read a lot of literature about how families cope around their children’s diagnosis with life limiting illnesses, looking at the human elements to their stories amidst all the medical speak and hoping I can get it right. It is quite overwhelming, I’ve been so lucky to have so many stories with Leanne over the last 20 odd years but this one feels different, this one could really break her and it feels like it’s the one where I’ve got the most responsibility to get it right.”
Liz Curtis, CEO and co-founder of The Lily Foundation, said: “All of us at The Lily Foundation are excited to be working with Coronation Street on a storyline about a child with a mitochondrial disorder, and grateful to the show for highlighting an issue that affects hundreds of families in the UK.
“For everyone who has worked hard for years to raise awareness about mitochondrial diseases, in particular for families living with a diagnosis and those who have lost a child, having their story told on one of the nation’s most popular soap operas is truly momentous news… We see this as a very positive step in our ongoing fight to raise awareness about mitochondrial diseases, support affected families and fund research to find a cure.”
“Mitochondrial disease” is the term given to a group of medical disorders caused by mutations in mitochondria, which are the tiny organelles that are present in nearly every cell in our bodies. Without healthy mitochondria, cells cannot function properly – leading to serious and wide-ranging medical problems.
A person with mitochondrial disease may suffer from seizures, fatigue, vision and hearing loss, cognitive disabilities, respiratory problems, poor growth, and major organ problems.
Storyline producer Iain MacLeod added: “This is a story about a family coming to terms with the most difficult news anyone can face and the ways in which this strengthens and shatters relationships in unpredictable ways. Above all, we wanted to do justice to the stories of the many thousands of families who have to deal with diagnoses similar to Oliver’s, be it a mitochondrial disorder or another life-limiting condition.”