A young girl in Sunderland is looking for a stranger who could save her life. Chloe Gray, aged 6, has Diamond Blackfan Anaemia – an incredibly rare blood disorder affecting approximately 700 people in the world – and only a stem cell transplant from an anonymous donor will allow her to have a normal, healthy childhood.
Although Chloe, who loves Disney, princesses and make-up, has three siblings, none of them have a matching tissue type to hers. This means she will be reliant on the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan to find a match from the stem cell donor register. Her anonymous hero is most likely to be a young man, as they make the best donors. However, young men make up just 15% of the donor register – meaning more young male donors are urgently needed.
Using the hashtag #AHeroForChloe, Chloe’s parents Francesca and Craig Bowser are raising awareness of the Anthony Nolan register to encourage more people to become stem cell donors – and potentially be the one-in-a-million match that could give Chloe a chance at a normal childhood.
‘Finding a donor would mean she gets quality of life back – she can’t swim, go on rides, or do normal things that her brothers and sister can,’ said mum Francesca. ‘We want to give her back some of the childhood that she’s missed.’
Chloe’s illness meant that she spent the whole summer holiday in hospital, and until staff at her school have more training in using the specialist equipment that Chloe relies on, she is unable to join her friends and older siblings at school.
Chloe’s parents are full-time carers for Chloe and also look after her three siblings, Tye, 11, Millie, nine, and two-year-old Freddie.
‘Chloe’s brothers and sister know she’s different and that they have to be careful with her,’ said Francesca. ‘They’re used to trips to hospital and Chloe’s feeding tube – her older sister is especially good with her.’ She added, ‘Chloe amazes us every day with how brave she is. She loves fairy tales - now it's time to find a hero for our princess!'
Diamond Blackfan Anaemia means the bone marrow does not produce red blood cells properly. It can be treated with blood transfusions, steroids, or a stem cell transplant. Chloe was diagnosed with the condition in the womb and had two blood transfusions before she was even born – she now has them every three to four weeks.
The transfusions have left Chloe with an unnaturally high build-up of iron in her body, which has to be dissipated with a pump that is attached to her 24 hours a day. At the same time, Chloe is anaemic, and has to be tube-fed seven times a day. A stem cell transplant would mean Chloe’s bone marrow is replaced with healthy, donated bone marrow and she would no longer be reliant on blood transfusions.
The sooner Chloe finds a donor the sooner the life-changing transplant can take place.
Francesca said, ‘Donating stem cells is such an easy thing to do. It’s not just Chloe; there are lots of people out there that need a match. Chloe’s granddad donated to someone a few years ago and he said it’s so easy and rewarding.’
Anyone aged 16-30, weighing at least 50kg and in good health can join the Anthony Nolan register at www.anthonynolan.org. The charity will send a ‘spit kit’ in the post to test a sample of the donor’s saliva and inform them if they are a match for someone in need of a stem cell transplant.
For ninety per cent of people who are asked to donate, the straightforward process is similar to an extended blood donation. Ten per cent will be asked to donate via bone marrow under general anaesthetic.
Lynsey Dickson, Anthony Nolan’s Regional Register Development Manager for the North East, said: ‘Brave little Chloe urgently needs a hero to be her stem cell donor and help her enjoy a normal childhood. We are asking people in the North East to join the donor register and help give people like Chloe a second chance at life.’