Parents face race to raise £300,000 in bid to save Poppy’s life

Ellena Martin and daughter Poppy Shields.
Ellena Martin and daughter Poppy Shields.

A Hawick soldier and his former partner are in a race against the clock to raise £300,000 needed to save the life of their desperately ill daughter.

Poppy Shields, now two and a half, was diagnosed with type-one neurofibromatosis in July of last year.

Poppy with dad Robbie.

Poppy with dad Robbie.

On the day that diagnosis was confirmed, the lives of her parents, dad Robbie Shields, of Hawick, and mum Ellena Martin, of Kent, changed for ever.

The disease has caused a tumour to grow behind Poppy’e eye, and despite 58 rounds of chemotherapy, her parents have been told it is inoperable in the UK.

Their only hope is to send Poppy for pioneering treatment in the US, but that, they estimate, will cost £300,000 once the costs of insurance and travel are added.

Now they face a race to raise that money in time to give Poppy a hope of recovery, as the tumour is continuing to grow.

Mum Ellena has set up a Crowdfunding page and dad Robbie is planning an 840-mile sponsored cycle ride to help reach the target, and the latter’s family in Hawick are organising fundraising efforts too.

Ellena, 21, said: “My beautiful daughter Poppy was first diagnosed in early July 2016 when she was just 16 months old, and our lives will never be the same again.

“I have been searching for help to find the right doctors who can take this awful, life-threatening nightmare away from us.

“Poppy has so far faced 58 rounds of chemotherapy, but sadly the tumour continues to grow.

“We have been told the tumour is inoperable in the UK.

“The tumour has already taken most of the sight in Poppy’s left eye and is now growing towards the right eye and is sitting on other parts of the brain, Poppy’s right temporal lobe to be precise.

“Sadly, we no longer have time on our side before the tumour does yet more irreversible damage, so we need to act fast.

“We are desperately seeking help from doctors outside of the UK who have more advanced treatments and are more specialised in such surgery.

“My next step is to consult with Alan Cohen, neurosurgeon-in-chief and chairman of Boston children’s hospital’s department of neurosurgery, who is currently working in the Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, to figure out our best way forward with Poppy under their care.

“We’re aiming to reach a target of £300,000 to cover the cost of travel, accommodation, consultations and surgery to help save Poppy’s life.

“Any donations will be so gratefully appreciated. Please help my little princess live a life free from this evil disease.”

Dad Robbie, 23, is planning a sponsored cycle ride from Land’s End in Cornwall to John o’Groats in Caithness with his cousin Steven Shields, while his parents, Robert and Julie, of Hawick, and his sisters, Roxanne and Kylie, are taking part in fundraising ventures too. He said: “We are all together on this. She’s my daughter, and we are doing everything we can to make sure she gets the treatment she deserves.”

The Crowdfunding appeal has raised almost £14,000 so far. Go to to help out.