Leanne Tilsley (Jane Danson) receives devastating news in Coronation Street, as she learns Oliver has an incurable form of mitochondrial disease.
The young boy suffered a series of seizures several weeks back, before being taken to the hospital, where tests were run in an effort to determine what was causing him to fit.
Dr Ward (Zita Sattar) informed Leanne and Steve (Simon Gregson) that she believed Oliver could possibly have mitochondrial disease, but they’d have to wait for a definitive diagnosis.
Mitochondrial diseases result from failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body (except red blood cells).
Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole organ systems begin to fail.
The parts of the body, such as the heart, brain, muscles and lungs, requiring the greatest amounts of energy are the most affected.
Symptoms vary depending on the organ(s) affected but may include seizures, atypical cerebral palsy, autistic features, developmental problems, fainting and temperature instability.
According to The Lily Foundation, the prognosis depends upon the severity of the disease and other criteria. As more research funds are raised to find more effective treatments and ultimately a cure, some of the affected children and adults are living fairly normal lives with mitochondrial disease.
In other cases, children may not be able to see, hear, talk or walk. Affected children may not survive beyond their teenage years. Adult onset can result in drastic changes from an active lifestyle to a debilitating ilness is a short amount of time.
Treatment plans vary from patient to patient but involve therapies, diet changes and other means to try and slow the progress of the disease.
In the weeks that have passed since then, Leanne has done everything in her power to care for her son, and she became convinced that he was showing signs of improvement, but in the coming episodes, she receives the news that he has an incurable form of mitochondrial disease.
Speaking about how Leanne and Steve feel when they learns such news, actress Jane Danson said: ‘When they get the diagnosis it’s just so hard for them to get their heads round.
‘This has come out of nowhere, a few weeks ago Oliver was fine and developing like any other three year old, now he seems to be regressing.
‘When they’re told about mitochondrial disease that’s when it really hits home.’
‘Leanne wants a second opinion, other people try to point out they’ve had that from the hospital but she won’t take no for an answer, she wants to try a different hospital.
‘It puts a massive strain on the people around her who aren’t necessarily agreeing with what she’s saying. There’s only so much softly softly you can offer a person before you have to give them the cold hard facts.’
Leanne is devastated following her visit to the doctors, and she subsequently opens up to Toyah (Georgia Taylor) about how she’s coping.
But how will she come to terms with the devastating news? What’s next for the character?
Jane added: ‘She tries to remain in control, she takes on the mantle of saying he’s my son, I’ll deal with this and she really puts up the barriers. Everyone around her is trying to help but they all become punch bags for her emotion.
‘There’s an element of denial to a point but then once there’s some acceptance she decides Oliver needs her and no-one else. She shuts down to everyone else for a period and everyone is walking on eggshells around her.
‘She can be quite angry and harsh with people but at the same time I think it’s understandable because of the hell she’s going through.’
Jane has proven just how great an actress she is on multiple occasions throughout her lengthy stint on the ITV soap, and a storyline such as this one provides her with yet another opportunity to do so, but it also brings with it a lot of emotion.
She said: ‘Because they’ve been so brilliant and the scripts have been so heartbreaking, it’s not been hard to find the emotion.
‘So has it been hard to film emotionally, yes, the subject matter is harrowing so that’s tough, as a mum you can put yourself in that situation.
‘But has it been hard to get there, no, because the scripts are so truthful and our little boys have done what they needed to do so well that it’s made my job a lot easier.
Coronation Street continues Friday 26 June at 7:30pm on ITV.Follow us: