At the start of lockdown, six-year-old Joshua Hirshler was diagnosed with a brain tumour. His Hertfordshire parents were advised he would need surgery and almost a year of treatment — six weeks of radiotherapy under general anaesthetic followed by ten months of chemotherapy.
But after the surgery, Joshua developed posterior fossa syndrome, which left him unable to move his arms and legs, lift his head, or eat or speak.
The Hirshlers have been grateful for the support of Camp Simcha and in thanks have raised £18,500 from a cycling challenge over four weeks involving other young family members which Joshua was well enough to take some part in.
His mum Deborah told the JC that “when Joshy went into hospital, it was just me with him — coronavirus meant we weren’t allowed any visitors. We were in Great Ormond Street for three months and my husband Gilon and daughter Rebecca could not see us. It was unbelievably hard for all of us.
“Several people mentioned Camp Simcha but initially I felt I didn’t want help. I am a GP and used to supporting others.”
After she decided to make contact, the family received emotional support, Shabbat meals and games and goodies for Joshua in hospital. On his birthday, the Hirshlers’ Camp Simcha liaison officer sent in decorations and treats. And since he returned home, the support has continued.
“They even provided a special pushchair when they realised it was difficult for us to take Joshy for a walk in the wheelchair.
“We really wanted to find a way to give something back.” And so the idea was hatched for a sponsored cycle. As Mrs Hirshler’s family is from Glasgow, the target was to total 400 miles, the distance from London to Glasgow.
Participants completed the challenge simultaneously via a Zoom link-up from three locations.
“We never imagined so many people would be so generous,” Joshua’s father told the JC. “We are so proud of our daughter, nieces and nephews for taking on the challenge, going out almost every day in all weathers.
“Our nephew Sami Hirshler organised a football tournament; two boys in our street have been raising money by washing cars and a family friend who made and sold face masks has donated the proceeds. Joshy is at Wolfson Hillel and the teachers and school’s community have provided huge support.
“Joshy is such a bright, happy and caring boy — he always makes an impression — and I think that is one of the reasons people have been so keen to help.”
Joshua has begun his chemotherapy and his mum reported that although his walking had improved, the effects of the treatment were slowing his progress.
“Last week, he was so sick from the chemo that he couldn’t get out of bed,” she said.
“But he had a blood transfusion which has helped and meant we were all able to go on a day trip Camp Simcha organised for us at a safari park. We had a great day out and it was just another example of how Camp Simcha has been there for us every step of the way.”
Thank you to the JC, Jewish News and Jewish Weekly for featuring this article.