A Derry man whose wife urgently needs bone marrow to treat her Leukaemia has urged local people to join the blood cancer register.
Patrick Byrnes who is originally from Culmore, but now lives in Warrington, says he and his wife Nicola were left devastated when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) last month.
He revealed that Nicola has one of the most aggressive forms of the disease meaning that she needs a stem cell transfer, more commonly known as a bone marrow transplant, within the next two months.
The mostly likely match for bone marrow comes from a sibling, but as Nicola is an only child her only hope is finding a match from the blood cancer register.
“Only 600,000 people in the U.K are currently on the register,” explained Patrick. “That’s out of a population of 65 million.
“Nicola is one out of only 200 people diagnosed with this type of Leukaemia each year.”
The couple who have only recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary have now thrown their efforts into raising awareness of the need for bone marrow donors, to encourage people in the UK and north of Ireland to join the register.
“Nicola was diagnosed on June 2, 2015,” said Patrick. “It’s a day or time I’ll never forget, 11.20 a.m.
“She had been admitted the previous Friday with chest pains.
“Initially she was diagnosed with having a blood clot on her lung, but they weren’t sure, then they thought it was pneumonia, then pluracy.
“On the fifth day the haematologist came into the room and told us about the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. He was only a new doctor, and it was the first time he’d ever had to tell anyone they had Leukaemia.”
Patrick explained that Nicola needs stem cell treatment and intensive chemotherapy.
“If we get the transplant Nicola will have intensive chemotherapy and then two weeks of radiation to wipe out the cells, then they reinject healthy bone marrow and rebuild the immune system.”
But time is against the couple. Medics have told them the transplant needs to be done in the next two months.”
Patrick and Nicola currently spend five days each week in the hospital for chemotherapy.
“For the first six weeks Nicola was in hospital, “said Patrick. “She was diagnosed at Warrington General Hospital, but was subsequently moved to and is being treated at The Christie, Manchester HTU. Now she’s an outpatient and Nicola goes five days a week for chemotherapy but we have every second Monday off.
“When I look at my wife I want to be able to do something to help her.
“The only input I have it to convince more people to join the blood cancer register.
“That’s what we have been doing. I want to tell people that this idea that giving bone marrow is about someone coming at you with a drill is all a myth. There are so many misconceptions.
“All of the charities have videos which explain what’s involved.
“In fact only one in 1200 people who register will be asked to become a donor.”
The couple are appealing to people to think about going forward as a donor.
“It is a waiting game,” said Patrick.
“We try and concentrate on each set of 24 hours as they come. I probably look a little further ahead than Nicola.
“The stem cell transplant needs to be done in the next two months.
“The longer it goes on with us waiting, well, that’s not a good thing.
“We’ve been having a flyer campaign, Nicola used to work for Vodafone and they’ve had registration days.
“And we’ve been doing a lot of work on social media.
“Being a bone marrow can be lifesaving. Just joining the list suggests you could be a lifesaver.
“Nicola and I always talk about ‘just one more.’
If we can persuade one person to look into this then we have done what we set out to.”
There are several ways to get yourself on the blood donor register.
The Anthony Nolan register
This register needs more young men aged 16-30 to sign up, as they are most likely to be chosen to donate but make up just 15% of the register. You have a 25% to 30% chance of having the same tissue type as a sibling.
90% of donations take place via PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection). This is an outpatient appointment and is similar to donating blood.
To join the register, you must be aged between 16 and 30, weigh more than 7st 12lbs (50kgs) and be in general good health. For more information about our work or to sign up online, please visit www.anthonynolan.org.
You can also log on to:
Delete Blood Cancer UK (takes donations for people aged between 16-55) http://www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk/en
NHS Bone Marrow Registry (takes donations from people aged 18-49) http://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/bonemarrow/