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Otto, 8, grows sunflowers for children’s hospice after sister’s major stroke at 9 months old

PUBLISHED: 11:30 22 June 2020

Otto, who is just eight years old, started growing sunflowers when his aunt gifted him seeds, and now he is selling them and donating the money to East Anglia's Children's Hospices. Picture: CARTER FAMILY

Otto, who is just eight years old, started growing sunflowers when his aunt gifted him seeds, and now he is selling them and donating the money to East Anglia's Children's Hospices. Picture: CARTER FAMILY

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A young boy from Suffolk is raising money during Children’s Hospice Week by selling sunflowers after his sister had a life threatening stroke as a baby and was left with complex medical needs.

Xanthe, 13, and her brother Otto, eight, live in Kersey, near Hadleigh. Picture: CARTER FAMILYXanthe, 13, and her brother Otto, eight, live in Kersey, near Hadleigh. Picture: CARTER FAMILY

Otto Carter, aged eight, lives in Kersey with his family and sister Xanthe who has been receiving care from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) since she was three years old.

At just nine months old Xanthe contracted pneumococcal meningitis, a life-threatening infectious disease that causes inflammation of the layers that surround the brain and spinal cord, and affects only one in 6.5 million children.

As a result she had a major stroke and defied the odds by surviving with complex medical needs, including chronic epilepsy, despite parents Jessie and Hugo being told she would not make it.

Despite her difficulties, Jessie says Xanthe is cheeky, giggly and in many ways a true teenager, with a will to be part of the world and do as much as possible.

The Carter siblings Otto, Xanthe and Milo out for some exercise. Picture: CARTER FAMILYThe Carter siblings Otto, Xanthe and Milo out for some exercise. Picture: CARTER FAMILY

The mum described the day they found out about her illness as “devastating” and said: “Xanthe wasn’t expected to survive her illness and the professionals involved in her care were never optimistic she’d be able to walk or use her right side due to the stroke damage.

“But with a huge amount of love, support, encouragement and patience from her family and therapists she has learnt to walk, and has a few words.

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“Though her prognosis is far from clear, she loves life.”

Xanthe Carter had a stroke when she was nine months old and has been receiving care from East Anglia's Children's Hospices since she was three years old. Picture: CARTER FAMILYXanthe Carter had a stroke when she was nine months old and has been receiving care from East Anglia's Children's Hospices since she was three years old. Picture: CARTER FAMILY

Xanthe’s brothers Otto and Milo, aged 14, regularly attended EACH’s sibling days which involved activities for siblings of children who needed hospice care, but were suspended due to Covid-19.

Otto said: “My aunt gave me some sunflower seeds and mummy and I grew them.

“I decided to sell them for the hospice because I miss the sibling days and it’s a special place for our family.”

The youngster sold 30 plants in two days and already has 90 more growing, adding: “It’ll be nice to raise some money and give it away rather than have it ourselves.”

Mum Jessie added: “We’re hugely proud of Otto and what he is doing – he hasn’t done any fundraising before.”

Five of EACH’s 43 shops opened last week and Children’s Hospice Week hopes to raise more funds to plug the gap left by Covid-19.

MORE: ‘Financial forecasts are extremely concerning’ – Children’s hospice plea for support amid coronavirus hardship


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