A 17-YEAR-OLD boy has lost his battle with leukaemia just weeks before he was due to complete a gruelling course of treatment.
Sean Jardine’s mum Karen said the family were devastated. Friends are to stage a football match in his memory.
It had wrecked his dreams of pulling on a shirt for Hearts, but as Sean excitedly ripped open his exam results the future was looking bright for the popular teen.
Three years after being diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL), he was just weeks away from completing the gruelling treatment and eager to start his final year at Ross High School “cancer free”.
Despite missing years of teaching in the classroom, the 17-year-old had persevered with his studies from his home in Elphinstone, achieving an A in Business Management, as well as two Bs and two Cs for English, Maths, Biology and Craft and Design.
But just days before the jubilant scenes, his family’s world came crashing down when his “final” lumbar puncture unexpectedly revealed the leukaemia had returned.
Devastatingly, he never made it back to school. A severe infection took his life on August 18 – three days before the start of term.
“Sean should have been starting sixth year, he had his future mapped out with what he wanted to do. It was just so sudden,” said mum Karen Herd, 50.
“His so-called end date for treatment was October 15 and he had been in remission, so it was a total shock when he relapsed at the end of July.
“Sean being Sean, he never let it get him down, he was always so full of life saying, ‘Don’t worry mum, it’s only a couple of months on the end of what it should have been, we’ll be fine’.
“But then he took an infection and unfortunately they couldn’t save him. Within 24 hours he passed away.”
Football-mad Sean had been playing for Joppa United under-16s in the Easter Cup youth tournament in Amsterdam in April 2011 when it became obvious he was far from well.
Tests revealed the 14-year-old captain had led his team to victory while suffering from leukaemia.
Later his team mates took the prize to Sean’s hospital bedside at the Sick Kids, so he could share their delight at winning the silverware.
One third of all childhood cancers are leukaemia and three out of four affected are diagnosed with ALL. It can strike at any age, but is more common in younger children and more often seen in boys than in girls.
In his typically gritty way, battler Sean responded well to treatment and was placed in remission later the same year. He continued to take chemotherapy tablets from home and underwent regular lumbar puncture tests to check the disease was being kept at bay.
After avoiding hospital stays for more than 18 months and just weeks away from getting the all-clear, test showed abnormalities and the worst was confirmed. It was back.
A three-month intensive treatment plan was drawn up, which would have culminated in Sean receiving a bone marrow transplant, but he never had the opportunity.
Within weeks of returning to Sick Kids, his ravaged body developed a severe infection that could not be beaten and he died less than two months before he was set to leave his treatment behind for good.
“Even on the Sunday he became ill, we never thought for one minute he wouldn’t make it,” said Karen.
“He didn’t think it, I didn’t think it, nobody did. I couldn’t believe it when doctors told me he had died.
“He was sedated so he could be put on a ventilator to help his breathing but he never woke up. He went to sleep with me saying, ‘I love you, son and I’ll be here when you wake up’, and he just rolled his eyes as if to say ‘I’m 17 and surrounded by all these people, get away’.
“We didn’t get to say goodbye but I’m glad that we didn’t – I’m hoping he passed away not knowing.
“The staff were brilliant and did all they could but his heart just gave up.”
Hundreds of brightly dressed people, many in football shirts, attended his funeral at Warriston Crematorium, with even the funeral directors sporting colourful ties.
Lanterns were lit and released into the night sky by his former teammates from Joppa and Ross High.
Many of his friends hope to raise money for leukaemia charities and ward two of Sick Kids at a series of events in his memory, starting with a charity football match this weekend.
His former classmates want to create a special place in the school yearbook in his honour and there is talk of a staff versus students football match later this term.
Headteacher Paul Reynolds said Sean’s death had upset staff and students alike. Leading the tributes, he said: “Sean had been doing really well and did excellently in his exams, it was a shock to everyone coming back after summer.
“He was an inspiration to other young people – to achieve so much while everything else was going on in his life is testament to his character.
“All the ideas are being driven by his friends and obviously supported by the school. They are a understandably feeling a bit lost and want to do whatever they can to help. He was an extremely popular pupil and it’s awful to lose him.”
Legal executive Karen said kind messages and love for Sean had been a huge support to her and her other son Brandon, 19.
Knowing he touched so many lives has been a big comfort to them but would have made modest Sean blush, they said.
“Sean was just one of these types of people that helped people, never used his illness as an excuse. He was just so vibrant and full of life,” said Karen.
“He never let himself be ill – he never let the leukaemia affect him. It was an inconvenience he dealt with, he was never down, we never had hysterical screaming or him ever playing on the fact he had leukaemia.
“It’s not you happy-ever-after-ending but we wanted to raise awareness of his condition and for some good to come out of it.”
Star support for memorial match
FORMER teammates and friends will compete in a charity football match at the Hearts training ground on Sunday.
The Sean Jardine Charity Memorial Match will see the now defunct Joppa United reform to take on his mates to raise funds for ward two of the Sick Kids.
It has been organised with the help of family friend and former Hearts player, Allan Preston, who asked the club if it was possible to use the sports campus at Riccarton.
The former Jambo, who also had spells at Dundee United and St Johnstone, enlisted the help of Hearts director of football Craig Levein to ensure it happened.
“It has been hastily arranged as you’d imagine, but hopefully there will be a decent turnout for a very worthy cause,” he said.
“The whole story is such a tragedy so if we can raise a little bit of money for charity, it would be a nice thing.
“Sean was a big football fan and loved playing it. We thought it would be a fitting tribute to play it on the Hearts training turf as his mum said it was somewhere he had always aspired to get to.
“It’s really good of Hearts and Heriot-Watt to let us play it here, they must get inundated with requests.”
Hearts and Chelsea fan Sean, spent time at Haddington Boys Football Club before becoming Joppa under-16s captain, aged just 14.
He also helped his Ross High school team reach the final of the Scottish Cup, only to be left out of the squad for the match because he was too unwell.
Mum Karen, who will present the trophy at full-time, said it had been his dream to play at Tynecastle – and he would cheekily see this as the “next best thing”.
She said: “I think it’s amazing that the boys want to hold a memorial match in his memory. Sean wouldn’t like fuss but he’d like that we’re raising money for ward two at the Sick Kids. The staff there really looked after him and were very special to Sean.”
Kick off is 3pm, all supporters welcome.