A new mum from a remote Scottish island is desperately seeking a bone marrow donor, so she can be reunited with her baby, toddler and husband.
Simon, Jacob (as a baby) and Fiona Hart
Fiona Hart, 32, gave birth to little Honor in September, but just weeks later, she was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.
Since then Fiona has been forced to spend most of Honor’s short life away from her children and husband Simon Hart, while she receives cancer treatment on the mainland.
Baby Honor is now being looked after by grandparents Donald and Linda McArthur on their home island of Islay, off the West Coast of Scotland, while her two year-old son Jacob stays with his paternal grandparents, also on the island.
Fiona is currently receiving chemotherapy at the Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, while the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan searches its register for a matching stem cell donor, and ex-firefighter Simon is spending his time between Islay and Glasgow.
Now, the family are desperately awaiting news that a stranger with a matching tissue type has been found so they can be brought back together.
“I never thought I’d be looking after my daughter’s baby,” said Linda, Fiona’s mum, a practice manager at a surgery. “All Fiona wants is to be at home with her kids – it’s all any mum would want.
People don’t realise how easy it is to give someone like Fiona that opportunity – it would mean the world to her, and all you need to do is join the Anthony Nolan register.”
Until her illness, Fiona had been an active young woman, meeting her husband of six years, Simon, at a martial arts club in her 20s. In the years that followed, they enjoyed holidays in Dubai, moved in together and continued to bond over martial arts, before having their first child together two years ago.
After discovering she was pregnant with her second child in January last year, Fiona started experiencing worrying symptoms which doctors brushed off as pregnancy side-effects.
She had been experiencing extreme sinusitis which causes intense pain in her nose, eyes and face, leaving her unable to eat or sleep comfortably.
During Fiona’s pregnancy she even began losing weight, rather than putting it on, leading to concern from her loved ones. “People were saying to her ‘The baby’s eating you!’,” recalls Linda.
Fiona, who was living in Glasgow with Simon and Jacob at the time, had several doctor’s appointments and endless tests, to no avail. “Doctors kept telling her it will get better once you’ve had the baby,” said Linda. “But it just went on and on.”
“In August, the whole family came home to Islay to rest and have a much-needed holiday, and we were shocked – we know our daughter, and we knew something was very wrong. She couldn’t sleep and felt like she was drowning in the night due to her sinuses being so swollen.”
Fiona gave birth to Honor in September and hoped her health would go back to normal, but her condition was worsening.
Simon eventually decided to give up his job as a firefighter so the family could remain in Islay, but in December, after yet more blood tests and doctors appointments, Fiona finally received a shattering diagnosis from her consultant – she had T-Cell Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.
This meant she had to leave her newborn baby and toddler in Islay while she went back to Glasgow for chemotherapy.
A stranger is needed to save Fiona's life
Fiona has since been told that her best chance of a cure is a stem cell transplant, so a search is now underway to find a stranger with a matching tissue type who is willing to save Fiona’s life.
Amy Bartlett, Anthony Nolan’s Regional Register Development Manager in Scotland, said: “What Fiona and her family are going through at the moment is heartbreaking – but somewhere out there, there’s a potential lifesaver who could help bring this family back together by donating their stem cells.
“What many people don’t realise is how easy it is to join the Anthony Nolan register – it simply involves filling in a form and providing a saliva sample. If you’re one of the privileged few who goes onto donate, 90% of the time this will now take place via an outpatient appointment which is similar to donating blood.”
If you are aged 16-30, you can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register by clicking on the button below: