Aimee Read, 24, a nursery nurse from Edenfield in Manchester, is desperately searching for a stem cell donor for a second time.
Twenty-two years ago Aimee was diagnosed with leukaemia and was treated with chemotherapy. The cure worked successfully for a time, but the cancer returned when Aimee was four and she was told she needed a stem cell transplant. Following a frantic eight-month search, Aimee thankfully found a donor.
However, the family have tragically found out that Aimee has developed another blood disorder, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), in which the bone marrow doesn’t produce normal blood cells. Aimee also has a condition called PNH – an ultra-rare bone marrow disease in which red blood cells break apart in the bloodstream. Doctors have decided that Aimee’s best chance at recovery is a second stem cell transplant.
‘Aimee started feeling unwell in July and was severely anaemic,’ said her mum Wendy. ‘She was diagnosed with MDS last week and the doctors are deciding whether or not she needs a transplant.
‘It was a struggle to find a donor the first time round so we desperately want to be proactive and give her the best chance we can. The more donors we have on the register, the better her chance of finding a match.
‘A matching donor is Aimee’s last chance at life,’ added Wendy.
Aimee’s brother, 20-year-old Jack, does not have a matching tissue type to his sister, so a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor could be her best chance at survival. The donor stem cells would engraft in Aimee’s body and start producing the healthy red and white blood cells that her own bone marrow cannot.
‘Aimee’s condition is not straightforward,’ said Wendy. ‘We also discovered two weeks ago that she has a head tumour. Thankfully it’s benign, but it can’t be treated until her MDS has been dealt with.
‘We’re struggling,’ added Wendy. ‘Aimee’s feeling numb, in shock. She can’t even cry, she’s in disbelief.’
Aimee’s family and friends are channelling their energy into raising awareness of the Anthony Nolan stem cell register to encourage more people to register as a potential donor – and they especially want young men in the Greater Manchester area to consider signing up.
A donor recruitment event at Ramsbottom cricket club on Thursday 24 November saw an astonishing 275 people join the register thanks to Aimee’s appeal.
Donating stem cells is a straightforward outpatient procedure similar to giving blood. Once on the register, people have a 1 in 900 chance of being asked to donate in the next five years.
Young men are particularly in demand, as they are most likely to be chosen as donors but make up just 15% of the donor register. People from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds are also underrepresented on the donor register.
Alice Hirst, Regional Manager for the North West at Anthony Nolan, said, ‘Aimee has already been through so much in her life, and now a stranger could be her best chance of a cure. It’s amazing that Aimee and her family are doing so much to raise awareness of the register at such a difficult time. Joining the register is simple – just visit www.anthonynolan.org and sign up for a spit kit. When it arrives at your house, just spit in the tube and send it back, and we will add you to the donor register.’
People aged 16-30 can join the Anthony Nolan register. Find out more and request a free spit kit at www.anthonynolan.org