Toddler Hazel is excited to spend Christmas with her new baby brother Wilbur, and her big sister Romy. But this year, the only wish on the family’s list is a donor to give Hazel the gift of life.
Parents Patrick and Alice, from Bishop’s Stortford, are praying for a hero who is willing to donate stem cells to save their daughter, who is battling an extremely rare form of blood cancer.
Eighteen-month-old Hazel Richardson - or ‘Hazy’ - was diagnosed with Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukaemia (JMML) on 5 October this year, after a summer of constant illness.
Hazel’s dad, Patrick Richardson, said: 'Because the condition is so rare it took a while to get diagnosed. They thought it was meningitis, but it didn’t cross our minds that it could be cancer - it was a complete shock.
'As parents you can’t really take it in. You wake up in the morning and the first thought is "my daughter has leukaemia" and it’s hideous.
'But we have a real and strong faith in God which sustains us and thanks to all the support and prayers from friends and family we have not fallen apart.'
While the family were receiving the shock diagnosis, Hazel’s mum Alice was also due to give birth in the same hospital, as she was 38 weeks pregnant.
Patrick said: 'It was an intense time even just thinking about the logistics of being in hospital with both Hazel on the oncology ward and Alice going into labour.
'I was worried I might miss the birth but thankfully it was all OK in the end and we were released from hospital just before baby Wilbur arrived safely and happily.
'The birth of Wilbur has been such a blessing. Hazy dotes on her baby brother – he is a distraction for us all from the reality of what Hazy is facing.'
Hazel is currently being maintained with blood transfusions and oral chemo but the family have been told that her only hope of a long-term cure is a stem cell transplant.
Hazel’s three-year-old sister, Romy, was tested to see if she could be a potential match, and they even tested the stem cells from Wilbur’s umbilical cord - but sadly no match was found.
Now the family are reliant upon a stranger to donate their stem cells through the Anthony Nolan stem cell register or other international registers.
As the search for a match is now underway, the family have kick-started a campaign to get more people onto the register.
The campaign has reached the attention of Harry Judd from McFly who said: 'It’s heartbreaking to hear what little Hazy and her family are going through, but there is something we can all do to help.
'I really urge everyone to go to the Anthony Nolan website, sign up and help her family find a lifesaving donor for this special little girl.'
Alice, Hazel’s mum, said: 'It’s a miracle that it’s even feasible for a stranger to save Hazy. I’m humbled by the fact that people sign up and are there to help someone they don’t even know. It’s so positive and reassuring that this is available to people in our situation.
'Sadly though, there are a lot of people out there who don’t know about it, or think it’s an operation, so we want to spread the word. Our campaign isn’t just about Hazel, it’s for all the children in need of a match; it’s much bigger than just us.
'I would encourage everyone to sign up, it’s a complete no-brainer. You are saving someone’s life and it doesn’t impact on your own. You may not be a match for anyone ever but it’s so important to be there, just in case. It’s such a unique thing to save a stranger’s life.'
Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, said: 'It’s so inspiring that despite everything that they are going through, Hazel’s family are also fighting for other families like theirs. We fully support them in their quest to find more matches for everyone who needs one.
'Sadly there are many myths that surround stem cell donation. To sign up, all you have to do is fill out a simple online form and provide a saliva sample.
'If you are a match for someone like Hazel, donating is usually done through a simple procedure which is very similar to giving blood.'
If you are 16-30 and in good health you can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register here: