There’s nothing more five-year old Oscar Saxelby-Lee likes more than running around, getting muddy and playing football outdoors. But Oscar has spent a significant amount of time indoors at hospital because he needs a lifesaving stem cell transplant.
Oscar, who recently celebrated his fifth birthday, was diagnosed with T- cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in December 2018. He is currently being treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital with regular blood transfusions.
Oscar needs a stem cell transplant: cells from a healthy person, with the same tissue type, to replace and repair his own damaged cells. His family is campaigning to raise awareness of the need for more stem cell donors through the #HandinHandforOscar campaign with support from Anthony Nolan.
The blood cancer charity is searching the worldwide registers for a donor whose tissue type matches Oscar’s, and who is willing to donate their stem cells to give him a second chance of life.
Oscar’s mum, Olivia Saxelby, describes Oscar as a boy who loves to eat a range of foods – from sausages to roasted marshmallows. One food he won't eat is tomato, but he still dollops ketchup on most things.
Speaking about Oscar’s diagnosis Olivia says: 'When we told it was leukaemia we were in pieces. It was such a shock to us and an unimaginable experience for us as parents. Oscar was confused about why he needed to stay in hospital and his emotional wellbeing was affected because of the number of cannulars he had to have.
'When we found out the chemotherapy wouldn't be enough to cure Oscar and that he needs a stem cell transplant we crumbled.'
Oscar’s auntie, Jocelyn Saxelby, who Oscar lovingly calls ‘Juice’, says: 'Oscar is just an incredible boy. His cheeky smile brings everyone joy and happiness. He is very intelligent and amazes us every single day with his creativity and energy.'
Jocelyn, 21, is a medical student at the University of Plymouth. She calls her nephew ‘Ozzy Bear’ and speaks fondly of his passion for the outdoors.
'He absolutely loves being outdoors and getting muddy – much to Libby and Jamie’s dismay! He is a talented footballer and is a fan of Jamie’s beloved Manchester United.
'Oscar doesn’t sit still, you have to chase him and will find yourself having spent hours on end playing with him. He has a central line in at the moment which makes things difficult for sleep and for play, and we’re all hoping for the best, so he can get back to doing the things he loves most.'
Inspired by Oscar’s story Plymouth Marrow, the University of Plymouth's student society which recruits people aged 16-30 to the Anthony Nolan register, sprang into action and recruited around 140 students to the stem cell register.
Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan says: 'Oscar is a happy go lucky, bright, friendly boy and we were saddened to hear of his need for a stem cell transplant. What is particularly inspiring is the selfless determination of Oscar’s family to raise awareness to make a difference for children in need of lifesaving transplants as they face the most challenging of circumstances.
'Seventy-five per cent of people who need a lifesaving stem cell transplant won’t find a matching donor in their families so turn to Anthony Nolan to find them an unrelated donor. If you are aged 16-30 and are in good general health, I would urge you to consider joining the Anthony Nolan register by simply completing a form and providing a cheek swab.
'For donors, joining is a simple act – but for families like Oscar’s, it means absolutely everything.'
You can follow Oscar’s journey at facebook.com/HandinHandforOscar and #HandInHandforOscar on Twitter and Instagram.
If you’re aged 16-30 you can join the Anthony Nolan register at www.anthonynolan.org/oscar. It costs £40 to add each new donor to the register so to help fund the search you can visit www.anthonynolan.org/donate