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Leukaemia battler Garron Donnelly gets taste of high life in Monaco

By Allan Preston

A nine-year-old Ballymena boy with a love of fast cars has just returned from the trip of a lifetime that included a ride around the millionaires' playground of Monaco in a Ferrari.

Garron Donnelly was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May 2013 after developing a painful lump in his neck.

He also suffered the devastating loss of his baby sister Peggy, who died in December during surgery to correct a congenital heart condition.

To provide Garron some respite, his parents were referred to Make-A-Wish UK, which offered him the chance to enjoy the ultimate getaway.

After seeing a Top Gear challenge set amid the luxury and excitement of Monaco, Garron had no doubt where he wanted to go.

With rides in a Ferarri, Rolls-Royce, a helicopter, and the chance to start up the engines of a super-yacht, his mum Ruth described the experience as second to none.

"Garron had to grow up too quickly because he became sick and had so much adult stuff to deal with," she said.

"Being sick like that is the loneliest thing because you're cut off from the real world and you have to hide in the house in case of infections, so to have something like Monaco to look forward to was such a positive."

She added that an unexpected highlight was being able to spend all day in the hotel pool, something he hadn't been able to do before because of the risk of catching a bug.

"But the best bit was when he got to go for a spin in a Ferrari. He got to go in the front seat and his face must have been hurting afterwards from smiling so much," explained Ruth.

She said the trip had meant all the more to the family after the difficulty of recent years.

"I can't even begin to explain how it feels to be told your child has cancer. Garron's diagnosis turned our lives upside down and our first thoughts were that we were going to lose him," said Ruth.

"When you go into a room and there are six people there waiting to speak to you, you just know it is bad news.

"The consultant said to pack a bag for a month, and within a matter of four hours our whole lives changed."

Speaking about the loss of her baby daughter, she added: "Peggy was born on December 9 and she went to London for open-heart surgery on December 21. She died on December 23, her daddy's (Colin) birthday.

"We were all devastated, and after everything Garron was going through, he'd lost his baby sister too.

"To have Garron's wish granted after all that was just amazing."

Georgina Menheneott from the Burgess yacht company said it was only too happy to be involved in Garron's wish, adding: "We were able to give Garron our best VIP welcome and as we whisked him out to the anchorage you could see how excited he was. He said he wanted to be a tender driver when he grew up, and just to see his face light up was really special."

Garron's mum said he now "totally sees himself living this kind of lifestyle and we say go ahead and think that, there's no harm in it".

"Memories aren't easily made. We'll never forget this. The work that was put into it was second-to-none and we appreciate it so much," she added.

Garron Donnelly with parents Ruth and Colin in Monaco; the nine-year-old takes to the air in a helicopter (centre), and (far left) starting up the engines aboard a super-yacht

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