Britain’s bravest tot with downs syndrome AND leukaemia defies odds to live and wins army of fans on line enchanted by her cheeky posts.
Now family are hoping to raise funds for pioneering treatment in America.
By Kelly Strange
KNOWN to her legions of fans as Princess Winnie, this British toddler is melting hearts around the globe.
More than 12,000 people a day follow gorgeous Winnie’s exploits after her mum started blogging about her battle against leukaemia.
But what makes three- year- old Winnie Martin’s journey extra special is that she was also born with Down’s Syndrome and at one stage given just a ten per cent chance of survival.
But despite this, the gorgeous toddler has enchanted thousands of followers.
The miracle tot loves posing for the camera every day to keep her thousands of fans posted on her battle against BOTH conditions.
Thankfully her leukaemia is under control at the moment, but tragically her family has been warned she will likely suffer a relapse and they are fundraising to pay for pioneering treatment in America that will take her chances of survival from 19 per cent to 90 per cent.
Mum Nichola Martin, 42, from Maidstone, Kent said: ‘ We just want to do everything we can to keep Winnie alive.
‘It’s wonderful that she is well at the moment but we need to be prepared for what the future holds. When she relapses we need her on a plane to give her the best chance of life.’
Of her daughters online fame Nichola said: ” We know Winnie is a super star but we never expected her to get so many fans. It’s incredible.
‘If I don’t post an update about Winnie every day people message me wanting to know how she is
‘They’ve been there every step of the way, through the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs. We call them Winnie’s army and they are amazing.’
Winnie’s battle started when she was born prematurely at 33 weeks following an emergency section in August 2010.
The tot was born suffering heart and liver failure and rushed straight to special baby care.
But there was another shock in store for mum Nichola and husband Michael, 37, when medics broke the news that their newborn daughter also had Down’s Syndrome.
Nichola says: ‘ I’d had all the tests during the pregnancy and told it was very unlikely so it was the last thing I expected.
‘I was already in shock from her being born so early. I don’t think I took it all in.’
Winnie’s battle for life started immediately as she fought pneumonia twice, survived a drug overdose and finally under went heart surgery after turning one in November 2011.
The operation was a success and the family looked forward to starting a new chapter with their daughter in seemingly good health at last.
Nichola says: ‘ We thought we were through the worst of it. Yes Winnie had Downs but that was just our Winnie and we were looking forward to giving her the best future possible.’
But just ten months on in October 2012 their world collapsed when Winnie was diagnosed with leukaemia aged two.
Nichola explains:’ Winnie suddenly seemed to have lots of bruises and she seemed tired, pale and under the weather.
‘I took her to a walk in centre who sent us straight to hospital. Being told she had leukemia floored us.
‘After all she had been through I couldn’t help thinking: ‘ Why Winnie, hasn’t she coped with enough? She shouldn’t have to cope with any more.’
Having Down’s Syndrome meant she was more vulnerable to infection and initially medics put her chances of survival at just ten per cent.
Nicola says: ‘ It was devastating. To be told your daughter will probably die is unthinkable.’
The tot spent the next six months in hospital having chemotherapy treatment. Nichola slept by her side.
Nichola was taking up to 40 calls a day keeping friends and family updated so Winnie’s big brothers Harry, 20, Jack, 17 and Woody, seven, decided to help by posting updates on their facebook pages.
Then a friend suggested setting up a page just for Winnie.
Initially the plan was simply to keep friends and family updated with her progress while she was in hospital.
But the daily posts and pictures soon spread like wildfire as news of Winnie’s battle travelled fast.
Nichola says: ‘ There were hundreds more followers every day. People seemed to be captivated by her. I made a decision to share everything and be totally honest, no matter how upsetting.’
Thousands were soon following the heart breaking ups and downs of her journey.
Former civil servant Nichola, who gave up work to care for Winne, soon began adding videos and Winnie’s Army responded in their droves when Nicola appealed for cash to take the tot to Disney.
She explains: ” Winnie was known for loving Minnie and Mickey, all her followers watched her play with them in her cot and watch the cartoons on TV. So when I floated the idea of taking her people were so generous and donations flooded in.
‘It was overwhelming to know Winnie’s Army cared so much.’
As former soldier turned crane driver Michael had recently been made redundant there was no way they could afford the trip for their large family themselves.
There was huge relief when it was announced to her followers earlier this year that brave Winnie’s leukaemia finally seemed to be under control.
Nicola says: ‘ It was fantastic to be able to write that at last. But by then Winnie was part of people’s lives. They didn’t want the posts to stop just because she was no longer in hospital.
‘I got messages from people saying they still wanted to follow Winnie.’
So Nicola began posting daily updates about Winnie’s day at nursery or simply visiting the shops.
Now they hope Winnie’s popularity will continue as they have been warned that it’s likely her medical background means she will relapse in the future.
Nicola said: ‘ It’s like we have a shadow hanging over us. The disease is under control at the moment but we always have to keep one eye on the future and be prepared for the worst.’
Medics have warned that if she relapses there is an eighty per cent chance she will die. But treatment in America will put her chances of survival at 90 per cent.
To support Winnie visit www.gofundme.com/71ezzw