About the Project
Accomplishing the extraordinary in the face of serious illness.
Little Stars tells the surprisingly life-affirming stories of young people living with life-limiting illnesses. Against the odds these youngsters are making the most of every moment thanks to the support of their loved ones, working in harmony with passionate ‘palliative care’ teams.
Regrettably, not all conditions can be cured. However, many children with life-limiting conditions will live for years, if not decades. Currently, 20 million children can benefit from palliative care, but access remains an issue.
But for those who are receiving care, the results are incredible. These remarkable stories show young people finding hope, love, joy and attainment in the face of the inevitable.
Little Stars is a film you will never forget. Presented by acclaimed British actor David Suchet CBE, the raw power, insight and emotional honesty of this definitive human interest documentary will leave a lasting impression.
Filmed in USA, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, England, Jordan, Russia, India, Greece and Germany.
ABOUT LITTLE STARS (ONE HOUR INTERNATIONAL TV SPECIAL)
In Minneapolis, USA, we enter the home of Kali, an adorable 6-year old girl with a love of puppies. We discover how Kali survived being born prematurely with tiny lungs that failed to develop and were unable to support her infant body.
Kali’s mother, Janice, recalls Kali’s birth and the first months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Everyone, including Kali’s doctors, believed that she would die before leaving the hospital. This is when Kali’s family was referred to Dr Friedrichsdorf and his team. The first step in making Kali more comfortable was to treat her pain, very carefully and with very strong pain medications.
After a short period of time it became evident that Kali’s health was improving dramatically. In fact, after the palliative care team had reduced her pain, Kali’s NICU doctors realized that she was well enough to qualify for a life-saving double lung transplant.
Kali was transferred to a hospital in Houston, Texas where she received the life-saving surgery and has subsequently grown into childhood with the ongoing support of her palliative care team.
The insight derived from Kali’s Story is that without the intervention of the palliative care team she would not have survived the NICU. However with palliative care her life was not only was her life enhanced, but actually saved.
We transition into the European city of Padova, Italy where we meet 7-year old Matteo’s foster mother Antonella.
We discover that Matteo is a twin with a rare type of Ondine’s Syndrome, which means that the normal reflex to breathe whilst sleeping doesn’t function. Since he was an infant, Matteo has stopped breathing as soon as he falls asleep.
Matteo’s maternal mother feared she couldn’t care for him as well as his twin, so a foster family was sought for Matteo.
In full knowledge of his medical condition and need for around-the-clock care, Antonella decided to foster Matteo. She had the full support of the local hospice and palliative care team including Dr Franca Benini.
Despite many medical hurdles and the need for special equipment to allow him to breathe whilst sleeping, Matteo has developed into a happy child who has become central to his large adopted family.
In fact, his adopted family believe that Matteo is the greatest gift they could have ever received. “I never, ever regret the decision to take on a child like Matteo. He has brought so much joy to our lives,” reflects Antonella.
The insight derived from Matteo’s Story is that without the support of the palliative care Matteo would have been abandoned as an infant and orphaned.
We transition into the bustling environment of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where we meet 14-year old Nazmi Nazim. This incredible young man is a mental giant despite having a terribly debilitating degenerative genetic disorder called SMA .
Nazmi was diagnosed with the life-shortening illness when he was a young child. His older sister Atika was already living with, and dying from, the same disease. Nazmi, like the rest of his family, was devastated when she passed away at age 15. But before she’s died she had given Nazmi advice that he took to heart – “study hard, smile, be happy, make others happy, and follow your dreams”.
Since Atikah’s death, Nazmi has become the top of his class at school, learnt sign language and mastered chess – a game he excels in. Despite having no other chess players in his family, Nazmi self-taught to become a chess champion – winning a gold medal at the Asian Para Youth Games after only having played his first game two years earlier. To further challenge himself, Nazmi is now training at ‘blind chess’ so he can compete for multiple medals for Malaysia at the next Paralympic Games.
The great insight derived from his story is that with help from both his loved ones and palliative care physicians he can focus on his abilities, rather than his disabilities, to achieve a high quality of life no matter what condition his health is in.
We transition into the vibrant world of sub-Saharan Africa. Here we meet Ms Naledi Kopane in the central city of Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Naledi was born with HIV and orphaned by the disease at age 3. The responsibility for her care fell to her aunt, who has a family of her own and was finding it very difficult to care for a terribly sick toddler (this was before antiretroviral drugs were readily available). A friend from the aunt’s community referred her to Sunflower House, a newly opened children’s hospice founded by Joan Marston.
We examine how that referral transformed Naledi’s life – allowing her to defy the prognoses of her doctors over decades, get a high-school education, fight discrimination, and ultimately help realize her dream of telling her story to the world.
The insight derived from Naledi’s story is that her reality of living with a life-shortening illness has taught her to live in the moment, value every happiness in her life and be thankful for every new experience.
We land in the city of Melbourne, Australia where we meet Simon and Charlotte – the bereaved father and sister of Marmaduke. When he was 4 years of age, Marmaduke died from cancer, only weeks after his mother passed away from the same disease.
Simon and Charlotte prove that the remarkable is possible. Despite this devastating turn of events, they are able to find gratitude and joy in their grief by reflecting on the quality of the time they spend together as a family. They thank their palliative care team and access to strong pain medications for this gift.
We see that while the death of a child is never easy, it can be ‘well’.