New Series: Child in a Million

wednesday, 20.00–21.00 on FIVE

This new series of observational documentaries explores a variety of rare and complex medical conditions and pioneering treatments at one of the most famous children’s hospitals in the world – London’s Great Ormond Street. Filmed over eight months, the series follows 12 children and their families at home and in the hospital, as doctors diagnose and treat their conditions using cuttingedge techniques. This opening programme features Molly who suffers from a rare form of cancer, and Tahlia, whose windpipe is so narrow she can barely breathe.

Four-year-old Molly has a form of kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumour. The condition is normally found in younger children and is relatively easy to treat, but the cancer has gone unnoticed in Molly for so long that it has spread to her chest. Having already been through months of chemotherapy and had one kidney removed, Molly now has three life-threatening tumours which surgeons must remove. But none of this seems to daunt Molly who remains happy and talkative at all times. “As ridiculous as it sounds,” says Rob, Molly’s dad, “you get by through the strength of your child.”

Molly’s consultant at Great Ormond Street is Gill Levitt, a specialist in Wilms’ tumour who has worked at the hospital for some 20 years. She explains that the tumours in Molly’s chest may still be active, but surgery to remove them would be life-threatening. Due to the proximity of one of the tumours to the heart, in fact, surgery may not even be possible. Levitt hopes that a new scanning technique – only recently being tested on children – will reveal if the tumours are active, without the need for invasive surgery.

Two days after Molly’s scan, it seems that Levitt’s technique has worked, but the news is not good. The cancer in Molly’s chest is still active, despite the chemotherapy, so she is booked into surgery with Professor Martin Elliott, one of the hospital’s top surgeons. Elliott and his team plan two operations to remove the tumours, but they are well aware of the risks involved. Because one of the tumours is so close to Molly’s heart, it may be too risky to remove it. The only way to find out for sure, however, is to go ahead with the operation. “It remains one of those rare bits of surgery in the modern era,” Elliott explains, “where you can only find out by doing it – which is not an ideal situation.”

As the surgeons prepare for the first of the operations, it is a very stressful time for Molly and her parents. Rob and Emma, Molly’s mum, try to remain strong for their daughter, knowing all the time that her life hangs in the balance. Dr Levitt remains positive, but admits that if the surgery fails, “we’re in serious trouble.”

Great Ormond Street does not have an accident and emergency department, so when a child arrives by ambulance, it can only be a very serious case. One-year-old Tahlia has been rushed to the hospital with breathing problems, and is taken immediately into the critical care unit while her parents look on. It is only now that Alison and Paul discover that their daughter suffers from longsegment tracheal stenosis – a condition that means her windpipe is very narrow in places. The disorder, which can be present at birth or be acquired through trauma or infection, is so rare that only one in five million people suffer from it.

Many children in the past have died from Tahlia’s condition, but Professor Elliott and his team changed all that with a revolutionary new surgical technique that shortens and widens the trachea. Tahlia’s situation, however, proves a challenge even for Elliott’s team. As she is rushed into theatre, the surgeons discover that Tahlia’s windpipe is less than a third of the size of that of a normal child. With a tube just 1.8 millimetres thick through which to breathe, Elliott reflects, “it’s incredible this child is alive.”

Sadly, after successful surgery to remove Molly’s tumours, the cancer returned and she died at the end of 2006. Her parents have asked for the programme to be shown as a tribute to her life.

About the author

  • Anonymous

    Just finished watching this heart-breaking progamme and is a tribute to Molly and her strength and joyfulness. It was extremely sad to see the end when the cancer came back 2 months later. She had just started in life and was going to school for the first time;so young, just an angel.
    Its hard to understand why life on earth goes this way.

    She’s was a tribute to everyone and a wonder child.

  • Julie

    I am sitting here not knowing how to put how I feel into words after watching Molly’s fight. My son has Leukaemia and I have found it hard to deal with and watching Molly’s parents and how fantastic they were for Molly has given me a huge amount of strength. She was such a fantastic, gorgeous little girl who just did not deserve this. I just can’t help but ask why this happens to these precious little children who have never done any wrong in life. I will always remember Molly’s story and wish her parents all the love and support possible.

    Julie & Jake

  • Anonymous

    Honestly I am very shocked and don’t know what to feel. i know it was only an hour long but i felt like i know Molly.

    The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Book of JOB 1:

  • Sara

    I watched tonight and I cried. Personally I found it very hard. My four year son has a stage 4 wilms tumour. I’m speaking to his oncologist next week to see what the next steps are. He is 10 months into his treatment. No child deserves to go through the pain that Molly and my son have had. They are so young and very innocent. To Molly’s parents my heart and love go to them. Molly was such a beautiful little girl. Her parents had such tremendous strength and that shows in how beautiful she was. I missed the beginning of the programme, so I don’t know what stage the tumour was. I know every child is different but i would really appreciate if someone could reply to this and let me know. Sweet dreams Molly.

  • Anonymous

    I was relieved when Molly was OK but when they said in the last 10 seconds that she died, i was devastated. Even the woman after the programme (that was stating a website and number we could recieve help from if we were distressed by what we had seen)was upset, you could tell that she was crying whilst reading her cue out. I have a niece the same age with a simiar name and I could’nt help but think of how I would feel if I had to go through that. She was such a beautiful little girl, what a terrible loss.

  • Liz

    This programme highlighted the strength and courage within the children along with their parents, when all hope seemed lost. Tahlia and Molly’s stories were so moving and inspiring it was difficult not to take stock of your own life, and be thankful of what life you have and what is yet to come.

    Molly and her parents’ story in particular was so heartbreaking, she was such a lovely, beautiful, happy little girl, it shocked and upset me so much that her long fought battle against the cancer was eventually lost. Her mum and dad must be so proud of her for all that she acheived in her too short life, remaining joyful and high spirited in such bleak circumstances. I wish them both the very best for the future with their new baby.

  • Georgina

    What a privilege it must have been to know Molly, she showed us so much of herself last night and to have lost her is so heartbreaking. Beautiful, strong and happy i’m sure she is doing as she promised and watching over her baby sister, click-clacking through her heavenly halls with her pink barbie shoes on, full of chatter. I too will remember Molly for a very long time she just radiated love. All my love and strength go to her family.x

  • Vici

    Im only 13 , 14 in a few weeks and watching Child in a milion really hit me , how lucky i am and how sad and cruel the world can be. I loved Molly as soon as i saw her . She was so cute and cudly yet grown up and brave. When she spoke she just lit up the room with giggles and ‘aww’s’ . i was so upset when i heard she had died only 2 months after starting school , and she looked adorable in her school uniform especialy with her little pink cap. Im sure Molly’s parents and her little sister should and would be very proud and priviliged to know her. Molly will be in my mind for a long time and i dont think any one could forget her xxx

    All my best to Mollys parents and her sister and anyone suffering from this cruel, cruel disease. xxx

  • Linzi Adair

    What a truly beautiful and inspirational little girl Molly was. I was absolutely heartbroken when I seen the end of the programme as I really thought that Molly was going to make it. I can only imagine the heartbreak that Molly’s parents are feeling as i have a little girl around the same age. I truly hope that her parents stay strong for there new little angel and that Molly lives on in peace in heaven. Rest in peace little girl you have touched my heart forever. xx

  • Tanya

    Sara, Thank you so much for your kind words and to everybody else
    who has sent such warm and comforting messages to Molly’s parents.
    We will make sure they receive them. I’m very sorry to hear, Sara, that your son has wilms tumour. Molly was also at stage four but please remember that she was really very ill when it was finally diagnozed and her prognosis was not good from the start. I’m not a doctor
    but I do know that everybody’s wilms will be slightly different and of course everybody reacts differently to the treatment. I wish you and your son lots of luck.
    Tanya Cohen
    Series Producer
    Child in a Million

  • Anonymous

    Dear Tanya,

    Is there anyway of getting the docmentry video.

  • michelle

    i just am still so upset by it all i had such a bad night the night it was on i just could not settle…

    i was so happy for molly going to school

    and she was looking forward to becoming a big sister

    i missed that start of it and wondered if there was anyway i can catch that somewhere

    i keep trying to imagine what molly looked like with hair before all this, and how awful for her to fall ill on holiday,i read about that on the five site….

    she has really touched my heart and i truly wish the outcome had been the positive outcome i so hoped for….

    i am going to do sponsored walk in honour of molly and in aid of great ormond street now in september

    i will never forget the little princess molly

    god bless you little one
    and god bless to emma rob and megan too

  • michelle

    hi there

    just to say again is there anyway i can watch the episode again at all

    i missed the start and would love to have seen it all

    molly has touched my life so much i would like to know the full story…

  • Tanya

    If anybody wants a DVD copy of the programme they can email
    Pui at I’m afraid there will be
    a charge but I’m not sure how much. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  • emma and rob biederman

    We wish to say thank you to everybody who sent in their beautiful messages. Molly was just as she was on TV when the cameras were there and the same off air constantly the DIVA!!!
    We wished to share Molly s story as it gives hope even in the darkest hours.
    As my husband and i were once told even when the night is so dark look up and there will always be stars to guide you.
    Please keep watching the series as all monies go to GOS and not too any families!
    All our children are children in a million and maybe tonight lots of parents are kissing their beautiful children good night and reading one extra story it does not take long………….

    All our love and thanks

    Emma and Rob Biederman and baby Megan xx

  • EMD

    I couldn’t believe that Molly was taken away at the end of the program. I didn’t think that she would die as she seemed to recover. I can’t believe it came back. Molly was such a brave, happy and bubbly girl, and I would have loved to meet her. I wish both Molly’s parents and Meganthe very best for the future. XXXX
    EMD. Aged 14

  • michelle

    just to let you all know that rob and emma have set up a website to raise money towards awareness into wilms tumour

    in honour of molly

    there are some lovely pictures on there too of molly

    have a look….


  • emma B

    I wish to thank everybody for their comments and messages for Molly we have set up a web page for her charity
    God bless and please keep strong

  • Sara, forgive me for not contacting you earlier, life has been difficult but positive as we have kept busy fundraising for Wilms.
    I pray that your son is ok and treatment has gone well, please forgive me again if this is not the case.
    I have given you the contact for we can beat wilms please feel free to join us we are not kookie we are real and wish to eradicate this cancer or at least research into earlier diagnosis
    but above all this, we are dealing with the same crap and can help each other and support your family
    We are hear if you need us but please do not feel any pressure wilms is not recognised in life and this has to change as i refuse to let molly die in vain

    love Emma Rob and baby megan now 9 months old
    god be with you and your family
    XXX we would love to hear from you!

  • julie

    I have still not got over the death of such a beautiful child as Molly.I watched all the Child In A Million programmes but can’t seem to get Molly out of my thoughts.
    I try not to go on the website to look at her pics but I can’t stop looking at them.

    How must it feel for you as the parents to carry on without her? I always think of that when I feel upset about Mollys sudden passing.Looking at her playing with her toys on Christmas day makes me so sad that she didn’t enjoy them longer.Especially her big pink princess car.

    Life is so cruel.And the fact that she was so happy going to school and didn’t get to start the new term makes me so sad.
    I am going to try my best to raise alot of money for this campaign as it seems to be a serious disease but not always with symptoms to alert the parents.

    RIP beautiful angel xxxx

  • Emma Biederman

    Hi Julie

    Thank you so much for thinking of Molly and us after all this time, we really appreciate your kindness and dedication. it is so hard and we have had to deal with losing some of Mollys friends she met through treatment passing over as well. Life is not fair but as Molly always was we try to remain positive and upbeat to ensure her memory and all the children are not forgotten and we will continue to raise monies for childhood cancers. we cannot do this without people like you.
    God bless and I am expecting our third precious child and are so happy that molly has a new sister or brother to welcome.

    Emma Biederman and Rob Biederman not forgetting Megan now 15 months old (cheeky Monkey)


  • jodie mcc

    i watched child in a million yesterday, and i cant stop thinking about molly, i know it was recorded years ago but its just so sad, i wish the family the best for the future, molly was beautiful

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1