A seven-year-old angel-child who left an indelible impression – Steve Cardownie

Last year I wrote about the benefit concert that Underbelly put on during the Fringe in aid of The Brain Tumour Trust and how it was particularly poignant as one of the director’s sons, Alfie, was undergoing treatment for a brain tumour. At that time, Alfie’s prognosis held out some hope that he would recover but sadly that was not the case and he passed away at the tender age of seven.

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 6:00 am
Alfie Bartlam knew he had lumps on his brain but was never aware of how ill he really was

I only met Alfie once and I remember him as a happy-go-lucky wee boy, full of beans and with an engaging smile but I wanted to do justice to his memory so I asked a close friend of the family, Charlie Wood, if he would like to recount Alfie’s story and this is what he told me:

“Alfie was an angel-child. It might sound trite but he genuinely was. He looked like an angel but he was far more than that – anyone who met him said he was the most graceful, kindest and good-natured boy they’d ever met. In three years he went under nearly 90 general anaesthetics, countless scans and three open-brain surgeries. At the start and end of every procedure, he would thank all the doctors and nurses completely voluntarily. Is it possible for a boy of seven to have the same impact in their lives that a 70-year-old man can? In Alfie’s case, it’s so very clear they can; his grace left an indelible impression on everybody.

“He was in Edinburgh for the last weekend of the Festival with his brother and sister a week before he died. He couldn’t have been happier and was bouncing around from venue to venue, which makes it even more incomprehensible that he’s not here now. He loved the Festival and had come up every year during his illness to see his dad Ed, and his favourite shows, his most favourite being Splash Test Dummies but also this year Danny MacAskill’s Drop and Roll show.

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“Ed and Lucinda were given an end of life prognosis for Alfie around Easter time this year. He’d had successful brain surgery earlier in the year but the tumours grew back, and very quickly. But thanks to a course of oral chemotherapy and other treatment, he was able to have a very happy last few months of his life with some once-in-a-lifetime moments; the army arranged for him to take the the Trooping of the Colour rehearsal, he was mascot at an England rugby match and he met Hugh Jackman backstage at the O2 before his concert.

“Alfie knew something was wrong, he referred to the tumours as ‘lumps on his brain’ but was never aware of just how ill he really was and I think we can all take comfort from his happiness in his last few months. The Underbelly team have lived with Alfie’s illness for three years since he was diagnosed in September 2016. In many ways we are a family and Alfie’s death has impacted many of us.”

A team from Underbelly took part in Sunday’s Kilt Walk in Edinburgh and they raised nearly £20,000 for the Brain Tumour Trust, which desperately needs funds as despite this cancer killing more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer in the UK, it only receives between one per cent and two per cent of cancer research funding.

The link to the fundraising page is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/team-underbelly and Alfie’s mother Lucinda, has a blog at alfiebartlamblogs.wordpress.com/author/alfieinjax so please feel free to donate so we can try to halt this insidious disease and reduce the number of Alfies in the future.

As I said at the top of this article, I only met Alfie the once and not only did he leave a positive, unforgettable impression on me it is perfectly clear that he did so on everyone he met – the world will be a sadder place without him.