Heart boken father marries Poppy - Mai

Article "Heart boken father marries Poppy - Mai" appeared in the March 2016 edition of Mail Online.
Tragedy of the toddler given TWO days to live after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

THESE poignant pictures show the heartbreaking moment a devastated father ' married' his princess after being told she had just two days to live.
 
Andy Barnard, 31, had always vowed that one day his only daughter would have the wedding of her dreams.
 
But tragically that day will never come for 16- month- old Poppy-Mai after she was diagnosed with a rare and fatal brain tumour and given just TWO days to live.
 
So Andy's RAF colleagues hastily arranged a wedding day for Poppy-Mai and the beautiful little bride 'married' her hero father.
 
Poppy-Mai was escorted to the aisle by her mother Sammi Barnard, 29 and big brothers Rylee, 6 and Jenson –Jay, four.
 
Andy who serves with the RAF 27 squadron regiment said: ' From the moment we found out Poppy-Mae was a girl I've said she'd have the wedding of her dreams one day.
 
'I never ever thought it would be like this. Our hearts are broken forever, but I wanted to keep my promise to my princess.  It wasn't how I imagined, but she got her wedding day.'
 
It was just six weeks ago that the Bernard family had the world turned upside down.
 
On February 14
th mum Sammi took Poppy-Mai to the doctors. The usually playful toddler had gone off her food and drink and was constipated with a distended tummy.
 
Sammi had also noticed she seemed off balance.
 
Their GP put the little girl's symptoms down to teething and prescribed a laxative.
 
But Poppy-Mai grew worse and Sammi noticed a lump appear under her rib cage.
 
Now refusing all food and drink and unwilling to walk, Sammi took her back to the GP ten days later.
 
A different doctor prescribed a stronger laxative.
 
But the following afternoon on February 25
th Sammi was so concerned she drove her daughter to their local A&E.
 
The toddler, who had now started vomiting, was immediately admitted as doctors battled to stablise her.
 
Sammi said: ' Her calcium levels were way too high and they had to address that first before they could start to work out what was wrong.
 
'At the worst I thought she maybe had a really bad infection.'
 
Sammi's father who was serving with his squadron in America was kept informed over the phone.
 
Only later that day an ultrasound revealed what appeared to be a mass in her stomach.
 
Sammi said: ' The consultant sat me down and said: ' You know this is much worse than constipation now don't you.
 
'I did. But when he said they suspected cancer I was shocked.'
 
Sammi was told that they suspected her daughter had Wilms – a type of kidney cancer in children.
 
Sammi had to break the news to her husband over the phone and bosses arranged for him to be flown back to the UK to be with his daughter who was being transferred to Addenbrooke's in Cambridge.
 
She was thrilled to see her daddy again but there was bad news when a CT scan revealed the mass on her kidney had started to spread and speckles were detected in the Poppy -Mai's lungs.
 
Sammi said: ' At that point we knew we had a battle on our hands but we had hope and vowed to do anything we could to save her.'
 
But just one week on the speckles had already grown into masses.
 
Doctors now diagnosed a malignant rhabdoid tumour in her kidneys and lungs – a very rare and aggressive type of cancer.
 
Her parents were warned that her chances of survival were slim.
 
Sammi said: 'Even then we still had hope and. If there was a chance she might survive we had to believe in that chance.'
 
She started chemotherapy and appeared to respond well. But on March 16
th cancer was found in her brain.
 
The size and position of the tumour above her right eye meant it was inoperable.
 
Sammi said: 'I was stunned. I couldn't believe we had been in hospital for four weeks and it had only just been found.
 
The brave mother asked how much time her daughter had left and was told two days without treatment.
 
Sammi said: ' I can't even tell you how I felt because I was just in utter shock and disbelief. We just looked at each other trying to take it in.'
 
'For someone to tell you that your daughter could be gone in two days is unfathomable.'
 
Andy said: ' I kept asking what they could do, I was sure there must be something.'
 
But treatment could prolong her life by a few weeks at most and would come at a cost.
 
Sammi said: ' When they said it meant more chemo with painful side effects I told them no.
 
'I couldn't put her through that. I couldn't watch her suffer anymore to save our own pain and grief.'
 
When the parents told staff they wanted to take their daughter home to enjoy the time she had left pain free they were commended for their bravery.
 
Sammi said: ' We didn't feel brave, we felt utterly broken. But we felt sure we were doing the right thing.
 
'I already resented that I had already spent four weeks in hospital with Poppy-Mai putting her through treatment that could have never made any different to her condition.
 
'If I had known about the brain tumour earlier I would have taken her home straight away.
 
'We had already been robbed of too much precious wasted time in hospital when she could have been with her family.'
 
Sammi and Andy sat their sons down to explain that Poppy-Mai was coming home to spend time with them before she had to go to heaven and become a star.
 
Sammi said:' My oldest son told me he had know all along that Poppy-Mai would become a star in heaven. But my youngest said that maybe the others stars would fix her so she could come home again.
 
'He cannot accept his cheeky little sister who makes him pretend cups of tea and steals his toy cars is dying.'
 
They returned to their home in Thetford the following morning and the next day on March 18
th, Andy's colleagues arranged for the wedding ceremony to take place.
 
They dressed a function room with ribbons and balloons and Poppy-Mai made her grand entrance in her cousin's christening gown.
 
Sammi said: ' I couldn't stop crying. Being our only daughter, we'd often tal about one day watching her get married.
 
'She looked so beautiful. But nobody could say the vows that had been written because everyone was crying too much.'
 
Poppy-Mai managed to stay awake for the ceremony and then fell asleep in her proud father's arms.
 
Every day since has been a blessing and the family are enjoying every precious minute they have left.
 
One woman Emma Pollitt was so moved by their plight she drove hundreds of miles to offer her help in person and has been staying with the family since last week.
 
She said: ' As a parent I just had to do something. Can you imagine being told your child has two days.'
 
Sammi said: ' We are humbled and moved by the response and it has given us strength to know so many have taken Poppi-Mai into their hearts and lives.
 
'Of course we have always known how special she is but it has touched us deeply that others can see that too.
 
'My wish is for greater awareness in Poppy-Mai's name. I gave birth to an angel and soon she will become one. The pain is indescribable but in talking about this other parents might be spared from losing a child.
 
'I want people to remember Poppy-Mai, remember the symptoms and know my daughter will have helped to save other lives.'
 
To donate visit www.gofundme.com/poppy-mai

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