BEST buddies Ryan Foskett and Roan Idle are typical lively lads, just as likely to be enjoying a fast race outside on their scooters as battling each other inside on the Xbox.
At school, the nine-year-olds are usually found side by side. And at home, they’re in and out of each other’s houses all the time – even the occasional squabble over a game or toy is instantly forgotten.
When it comes to looking out for his mate, Ryan has proved he is a friend in a million. And Roan, who has rare and severe blood disorder haemophilia A – which can lead to bouts of potentially serious internal bleeding – has just let him know how much he appreciates him, by nominating his pal for a national Buddy award.
It’s a touching sign of appreciation for all the little things his young friend does to help – from helping him get around when he has to use a wheelchair or crutches to rest his joints, to learning all about his condition, even dreaming up special versions of playground games that will help him stay safe.
“He helps me pack my schoolbag and he helps me when I have to use crutches,” explains Roan, who recently travelled to London with Ryan to see him collect his Haemophilia Society Buddy Award from television hosts Dick and Dom. “He looks after me. He’s my best friend.”
And Ryan, who’s chummed alongside Roan since they were both in primary two at Williamston Primary School in Livingston, sums up a unique companionship in the way only a nine-year-old can: “I feel sorry for him when he’s hurt, so I help him. I’m his slave!”
While Ryan, from Murieston, jokes, there is a serious element to their special friendship. For while most of the time Roan’s condition doesn’t stop him doing what he loves, other times the slightest knock can result in a potentially dangerous internal bleed that needs immediate attention, sometimes in hospital.
Yet to look at him, he’s the picture of health. “Haemophilia is not something you can usually see, so it’s difficult for a lot of people to understand the pain haemophiliacs experience when they have an internal bleed,” explains Roan’s mum Heidi, 44. “To most people he just seems like an ordinary kid, but he has a medical condition that needs to be looked after – a lot of people don’t appreciate that. Luckily, Ryan does.”
Roan was just six months old when Heidi and husband Richard, 50, of Harburn, West Lothian, became concerned at strange bruises which appeared on his torso and legs. A blood test confirmed he is among just 500 Scots with the bleeding disorder, passed genetically from mother to son, which affects how the blood clots.
External bleeds caused by a small cut are rarely a problem. However, sufferers can endure agonising internal bleeds, particularly affecting their muscles, joints and organs. Some can strike spontaneously, leaving Roan in pain and forced to rest, sometimes for weeks, to avoid damaging his joints.
“It can happen anywhere for no reason at all,” explains Heidi. “Sometimes we can see the bruising, other times he knows it’s happening because he gets a tingling feeling, swelling or pain.
“When I found I was the one with the wobbly gene, there were feelings of guilt, but now it’s a way of life, Roan doesn’t know any different and he manages to get along well.”
The temptation might be to wrap him in cotton wool but Heidi and Ryan’s mum Amanda are happy to see both boys play just like any other nine-year-olds. “I probably worry more about Roan than Ryan,” nods Amanda. “But if he has a fall, I get out the ice pack right away and let Heidi know. This sounds terrible but they were on their scooters the other day, and Ryan came off. I remember thinking ‘thank goodness that was my son and not Roan’!”
Ryan received his award at a ceremony in London, alongside Sick Kids physiotherapist Jenna Reid, who works closely with young haemophiliac patients.
According to Nina Benscher of The Haemophilia Society, the condition is often misunderstood. “Any knock or bump could cause a bleed that can vary in severity – a bump to the head could lead in rare cases to a brain haemorrhage.
“Simple knocks and scrapes to the knees and elbows cause them to swell up with blood. If not treated it can lead to long lasting joint damage so to avoid that, someone might have to spend time resting in a wheelchair or on crutches. Physiotherapy is really important as is a healthy and active lifestyle which helps make the muscles stronger.”
Heidi says she encourages Roan to be a typical boy, knowing he has the benefit of having a wee pal who understands his condition. “Roan is always doing something silly that can end up with us having to deal with a bleed, but you just have to get on with it. A couple of years ago he decided he would jump off a little hut wearing bat wings, he thought he could fly. And last week he came off his swing, so his arm is in a cast because he had an internal joint bleed. But it doesn’t bother him, he doesn’t go looking for sympathy.
“It’s just nice that he has a great friend like Ryan.”
n Contact the Haemophilia Society by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 831 1020.
Blood disorder with no cure
HAEMOPHILIA is a rare, inherited, bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot properly – the process by which blood changes from a liquid to solid state. Bleeding may occur spontaneously or following injury.
There are different types of haemophilia, but the severity of a person’s haemophilia is determined by the amount of clotting factor in the blood. The lower the amount, the more likely it is that bleeding will occur, which can lead to serious health problems.
About 6000 people in the UK have haemophilia, almost all being males.
Symptoms include bleeding into muscles and joints, especially the knees, elbows, and ankles; prolonged bleeding after a cut, tooth removal, surgery, or an accident; big bruises and internal bleeding into vital organs, most commonly after serious trauma.
The main treatment is preventative, involving replacement clotting factor which is usually injected using needles at home.
There is no cure, but modern treatments mean patients can lead normal lives.