For many people with a blood cancer, a stem cell donor is their best chance of survival. However, finding a matching blood stem cell donor is not easy. | Latest news

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For many people with a blood cancer, a stem cell donor is their best chance of survival. However, finding a matching blood stem cell donor is not easy.

For many people with a blood cancer, a stem cell donor is their best chance of survival.

However, finding a matching blood stem cell donor is not easy.

 

Amy’s story

Amy’s story comes at a time when new donors are needed urgently amidst falling numbers of people signing up to donor registers, as planned large scale donor recruitment and awareness sessions cannot be run due to COVID-19, but individuals can still request to join the registers independently.

Amy Bartlett, from West Bridgford, was a playful, happy and energetic girl. Having spent part of her childhood in New Zealand, she was a ‘water baby’ – representing her school in water polo and loved to be in the pool and sea, taking part in the ‘little nippers’ surf life-saving programme. More recently, she enjoyed being a member of West Bridgford’s Colts football team.

In 2018, when she was 12-years-old, Amy began to complain of feelings of achiness in her wrists and ribs and developed a small rash across her tummy and back. Tests at Nottingham Children’s Hospital later confirmed that she had leukaemia; devastating and heart breaking news for Amy and her family.

Their beautiful brave warrior Amy showed strength from the get-go, reassuring her parents that she could fight the leukaemia.

"Mummy, it is ok – it’s better I get it, than another smaller child. I am stronger and so have a better chance to beat it", were her first words after the news was broken to her.

Her leukaemia was categorised as high risk, meaning that despite her young age, she had to receive the most intensive rounds of chemotherapy administered to children diagnosed with the disease, causing her hair to fall out within just a few days of treatment starting.

Having not had the smoothest ride through her treatment, suffering liver problems, developing steroid induced diabetes and several allergies to medications she was given, Amy soon needed a wheelchair to get in and out of hospital. Turning the 12-year-old’s life upside down, Amy could not go back to school, but tried desperately hard to keep up with her school work.

Counting down the days until the planned end of her therapy on 4th July 2020, the entire family were holding onto the light at the end of the tunnel, when the devastating news of a relapse shattered their dreams. 

 

Marie, Amy's mother, said:  “How do you tell your daughter, whose tiny body has been through so much already, that the cancer she has fought so hard to overcome has returned? It ripped my heart out to tell her and hold her whilst trying to convince her that she had done it once and she could do it again.”

The relapse has meant that Amy has restarted her intensive chemotherapy. The plan is to then proceed to a bone marrow/ stem cell transplant, if a suitable donor match can be found. 

The race is on to increase awareness and to encourage as many people as possible to register on to a bone marrow/stem cell register. Each individual registration increases the chances of Amy, and other patients, finding a donor match which could, quite simply, save their life. 

 

Amy’s family say: “We need to find a match for Amy ideally within the next two to three weeks, so time is of the essence”.  Amy’s brother, Marcus, has been tested but unfortunately he is not a match.

 

Dr Jesky, Amy’s Consultant at Nottingham University Hospitals, said:

“For children or adults, like Amy, whose leukaemia has sadly returned, undergoing a stem cell transplant offers the highest chance of a cure.

Often these donors are volunteers as many patients do not have a suitable family match. 

Young men are particularly encouraged to register as they are the most frequently chosen donors.

For the donor the process of donating is simple but for the patient this donation could give them a second chance at life”.

 

Nottingham University Hospitals are encouraging people to consider signing up to one of the bone marrow registers to increase the chances of finding a potential match for Amy and others who are in similar circumstances. By doing so, you could be the match that saves a life. 

There are four main donor registries. You only need to register to one as the information from all registers is collated when looking for a match.

1. The DKMS Registry (age restriction is 18 to 55 years)https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/register-now

2. The Anthony Nolan Registry (age restriction is 16 to 30 years)https://www.anthonynolan.org/8-ways-you-could-save-life/donate-your-stem-cells

3. The Welsh Bone Marrow Registry (age restriction is 17 to 31 years)https://www.welsh-blood.org.uk/giving-blood/bone-marrow-donor-registry/

4. The NHS British Bone Marrow Registry (eligibility determined when you attend to give a blood donation)https://www.bbmr.co.uk/joining-the-register/

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