Young Oliver Battersby woke from his induced coma in Coronation Street, giving hope to distraught parents Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) and Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson) – only for their concern to increase when the toddler’s sight appeared to have been affected by his recent seizures, which doctors believe is a sign of a rare, incurable illness.
In upcoming episodes the three-year-old will be diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, a condition affecting cells in the body and their ability to ensure organs and systems function properly. Blindness is one of the many possible symptoms, but it remains to be seen if Oliver’s loss of sight is temporary.
“Leanne is clinging on to hope Oliver has not got the disease until she knows for sure,” Danson told RadioTimes.com in an exclusive interview. “When she does know she feels like she’ll wish she was back in the situation where she didn’t. I think she’s kidding herself and it’s all bravado, which Leanne is very good at.”
The heartbreaking storyline of a mother learning her child has a life-threatening disease is one of the biggest challenges Leanne, and Danson, has faced in over 20 years on the street, and the actress admits to being concerned her reactions would be true to the character.
“Sometimes with these storylines where something big happens you have a complete change of character,” she shares. “Leanne has always been feisty and strong, she has basically fended for herself and been left to her own devices from a very young age which had a massive impact on the rest of her life.
“She is a tough cookie but can be vulnerable. With Oliver’s illness we’ll see her pushing people away and lashing out, and not suffering in silence, but how she deals with it is absolutely true to that Battersby form, definitely.”
Danson also defends the accusations that her alter ego is miserable – in fact, she wholeheartedly agrees. “No wonder, she’s not had a great life!” she points out. “I don’t mind that she is a bit sour-faced as it’s true to the character and her experiences. There is a chip on her shoulder, but at the same time she can be sanctimonious which has annoyed people. Along the way she’s been called ‘Saint Leanne’! But it makes her interesting and gives her more dimensions.
“She has a heart, tries to be a good person but is a tragic case. And what she’s going through now is so awful. Leanne fears the one thing she always wanted, her own biological child, could be taken away, so she reacts in her usual hot-headed way.”
Doctors warn Leanne and Steve that Oliver could have brain damage after coming out of the coma, although by the end of the week his condition has improved and he’s allowed to go home. Steve, and Lee’s partner Nick Tilsley, are worried Leanne is in denial her son is getting better as they face an agonising few weeks for test results.
Once the official diagnosis comes next month, how will Leanne cope?