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Hannah Ockelford: There's always hope

Published: 5:17PM Wednesday November 07, 2012 Source: 20/20

  • Eva Mitchell (Source: Supplied)
    Eva Mitchell - Source: Supplied

Eva Mitchell was never meant to survive past birth. Her organs weren't developing properly while in the womb and the doctors suggested her young mum Tiff Mitchell should terminate.

Tiff refused, preferring to say goodbye naturally, by giving birth. She thought it was the best way to deal with the terrible grief she was just beginning to face.

Against the odds, Eva survived.

But - five years on - she's never left hospital.

I first met Eva nearly two years ago - she was bubbly and beautiful and full of fun. After spending time with Tiff, it became clear to me that she had never even let herself dream that Eva might turn five.

Yet, suddenly it was a possibility.

After our first story, 20/20s viewers fell in love with Eva Mitchell and were inspired by her family's attitude. So we started filming a second story that we hoped would document Eva and her miracle milestone - her fifth birthday.

But Eva very nearly didn't make it past the start of 2012. She had numerous medical complications and spent a heap of time in intensive care, the high dependency unit and in isolation. Watching from the side lines, the team at 20/20 began to plan for a story that would be a tribute to Eva and her short life.

Incredibly, Eva's pulled through. But 2012 has knocked Eva and her family around. It really has been the hardest year they've had to face.

Until now, every day has held hope that there'd be a cure for Eva; that her body could be taught to digest food, that there could be an organ transplant that transforms the way she lives her life. This year the medical professionals have been clear that these things are no longer options.

That's meant a big shift in the way Eva and the Mitchell family are living. The focus has changed from quantity to quality, and Eva Mitchell is having experiences she's never had before. It is a very bittersweet reality.

The Mitchell's have to come to terms with losing hope - hope that seven year old Mela will get to keep her sister and best friend close, hope that their baby will grow into a young adult, and hope that she'll have a life outside of the sterile walls of Starship Children's Hospital.

Of course there is still hope - hope that Eva will have a fulfilling and happy life. But there are also the bitter lessons of resilience, desperation and acceptance. No one's written a book on how to deal with this cruel fate, so Tiff's opening up and sharing how she's doing it.

Tiff touches many people, including me. Over the past two years she's taught me to laugh at myself and to live in the now. Actually, I should say she continually reminds me to laugh and live.

It has been a pleasure to bring you the story of the heartache and joys of my friends Tiff, Mela, and Eva.

See the story about Eva on 20/20, Thursday TV2 at 9.30pm. And to find out more about Cure Kids click here.