A seriously-ill teenager received a staggering 1,200 birthday cards from strangers after he was forced to spend his 16th birthday in hospital.
Luke Hesketh has a genetic disease which causes muscle weakness and wasting and was recently told his heart is failing and there is little doctors can do.
With his 16th birthday approaching, Luke’s mum Tracey Hesketh, 48, asked friends on Facebook if they could make him feel extra special and send a card.
But she was staggered when her message was shared around the country – and their postie delivered a staggering 1,200 birthday cards from well-wishers.
She surprised Luke with all the cards and gifts, and now nearly every inch of his room in Manchester Children’s Hospital is covered with messages from strangers and pals.
Proud Tracey, Luke’s full time carer, from Leek, Staffordshire, said: “Despite what he’s going through, he had a brilliant birthday in hospital.
“He thought it was amazing that so many people sent him cards – he definitely wasn’t expecting that.
“There are some really nice people out there and he really appreciated it.
“It might have been his last birthday, so it was lovely to see how much people care.”
Luke was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at birth, and the condition means his body can’t produce a protein which protects muscles.
He already used an electric wheelchair, but a routine chest scan on February 3 revealed his condition has begun to severely affect his heart muscles.
Doctors told Luke and his family – mum Tracey, dad Wayne, 53, and brother TJ, 19, -Luke has a maximum of two years left to live.
They warned his heart valves were leaking and this birthday could be his last, his mum said.
Mum Tracey said: “Hearing that is any parent’s worst nightmare, but as a family we’re all supporting each other.
“Luke would always have a smile on his face and has tried to take things in his stride, but he had been getting down recently, so I decided to take action.”
Tracey posted a status asking her Facebook friends to send Luke a birthday card to brighten his birthday.
But after the status was shared 1,500 times overnight, he got a shock on February 17, the morning of his birthday.
There were more than 1,200 cards from strangers all around the country, as well as cash to go towards eventually ticking things off his bucket list.
It features a trip to LEGOLAND, a helicopter ride and a night at a hotel on a riverboat.
The nurses, who Tracey said have been “wonderful”, also surprised Luke with a cake and some gifts.
She said: “For now, we’re all trying to stay positive and make him as comfortable as possible.
“He knows about his condition and he knows he doesn’t have much longer – but he doesn’t know the details.
“Luke takes everything in his stride, but recently he had been getting really down – so this came at the right moment for him.
“I posted a status thinking a few extra friends might send a card to brighten up his day a bit, but he got over 1000 cards, and most were from kind strangers.
“We couldn’t even fit all the cards on the wall!
“Lots of people also sent cash – which has gone into a fundraiser for Luke so he can tick things off his bucket list after COVID-19, such as a trip to LEGOLAND and a helicopter ride.
“The past two weeks have been really hard after we found out his condition had got a lot worse and his heart is struggling – so to see the kindness of strangers was wonderful.”
Tracey currently spends every day by Luke’s bedside – with dad Wayne, a HGV driver, allowed visits of up to an hour, once a day.
She said the hospital are making plans for Luke to be moved home as soon as next week.