Credit to the Liverpool Echo
This Christmas, a Liverpool hairdresser is looking for the one person who could cure her 9 year-old son of a rare and life-threatening illness.
Mother-of-two Ashley Cowperthwaite is busy preparing for a family Christmas, while juggling her job as a hairdresser and her college study. She’s also being kept on her toes by a new puppy, Dolly - an early Christmas present for Ashley’s nine-year-old son Kieron.
But Ashley is also finding time this Christmas to raise awareness of Anthony Nolan, a pioneering charity which she will one day rely on to give Kieron the gift of life.
At just two years old, Kieron Fairclough, from Bootle, was diagnosed with a rare and serious condition called Diamond Blackfan Anaemia (DBA) which means his bone marrow doesn’t produce enough blood cells.
Kieron needs a lifesaver
Kieron relies heavily on blood transfusions and medicines to keep him stable, but the only hope of a long-term cure is a stem cell transplant to replace his damaged bone marrow with new, healthy cells. Doctors have told her that he will need to find a stranger to donate their stem cells, because his sister Kloe, 11, is not a match.
Ashley, 29, said: 'We hadn’t even considered the possibility that Kloe wouldn’t be a match so it was a real shock. We hadn’t known at the time that only a third of patients like Kieron find a match in their families and the majority rely on Anthony Nolan to find them a donor.
'Kloe was really disappointed. I told her while we were both doing the washing up, and she just said, "but I really wanted to be his match". I was so impressed by her maturity. Now she wants to sign up to the adult donor register as soon as she’s 16.'
'It's amazing that something that easy could save my son's life.'
The charity is now searching its register of potential stem cell donors for someone whose tissue type matches Kieron’s. The family want to encourage as many people aged 16–30 to sign up and give people like Kieron a second chance of life.
'Since all this happened, I’d never even thought about stem cell donation but now I’ve realised how many myths there are. People think it’s really painful but it’s not at all; it’s actually more like giving blood, and all you have to do to sign up is spit into a tube. It’s amazing that something that easy could save my son’s life.'
This isn’t the first time Kieron has fought for his life. Before his diagnosis, Ashley and Kieron’s dad Graham were deeply concerned that Kieron wasn’t crawling, talking or gaining weight, and was getting persistent nosebleeds.
'I kept saying to doctors that he wasn’t well, but they just brushed it off. Eventually I took him to A&E and refused to leave – he was grey and floppy and I was holding him like a baby.
'A blood doctor in the hospital took one look at him and knew he was seriously ill, and we quickly had the diagnosis of DBA. By the next morning, he was having a blood transfusion.
“When he became stable, I thanked the doctor and said that I’d been convinced I was about to lose Kieron. The doctor simply said, "You were". And I realised how close we’d come to that.'
Kieron is now maintaining a normal childhood despite his constant medical appointments and rigorous treatment.
'In spite of everything, Kieron is such a happy and brave boy. He comes over to me and says "I love you, Mum, I had a great day at school". He’s got loads of mates and his favourite subject is maths - he’s brilliant with numbers. He’s also a proper little gamer and is obsessed with playing on the XBox.'
Credit to the Liverpool Echo
After Kieron asked his mum for a puppy for Christmas, she decided to grant his wish on a family trip to Newcastle and came home with a Chihuahua called Dolly.
'Kieron has loved bonding with Dolly over the past two weeks and he’s now counting down the days until Christmas. He seems well at the moment but we know that one day, it will all come down to whether that one special person out there who could save his life has joined the register.'
Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, said: 'During the season of goodwill, it’s so important that people aged 16 to 30 join the Anthony Nolan register and pledge to save the lives of people like Kieron.
'Signing up just involves spitting into a tube and, if you have the privilege of being a match for someone, it’s usually very similar to giving blood. It’s amazing that something so easy could provide a stranger with the gift of life.'
The family have issued a plea this Christmas for people to join the Anthony Nolan register. If you’re 16–30, you can sign up online, using the button below.