One in 25 million match found for woman with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia

Patrick and Nicola Byrnes.
Patrick and Nicola Byrnes.

A Derry man whose wife has been waiting almost a year for a bone marrow donor has revealed that they have finally found a match.

An emotional Patrick Byrnes told the ‘Journal’ how after a long nine months, medics have found one match from a database of 25 million people. The procedure means the difference between life and death for his wife, Nicola.

It’s anticipated that Nicola, who suffers from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia will receive her blood stem cell transplant in early March.

Patrick, who now lives in Warrington, has spent every moment of his wife’s illness, by her side.

“We’ve only been apart for a couple of hours since this began,” he said. “She needs me to be with her and I need to be there with her. I’ll be with Nicola every second of every day, we can do this together.”

The couple threw themselves into a relentless public campaign encouraging family, friends and further afield to sign the blood stem cell register. And Patrick said, as a result, thousands of people have now signed up to the register, many of them from his home town in Derry.

The one in 25 million donor hails all the way from Germany, which operates an opt in system from birth when it comes to the blood stem cell register.

“We found out there was a match just before Christmas,” explained Patrick. “Initially all we had thought about was getting a donor and what that would mean. But as time went by Nicola became very ill.”

He explained how Nicola had to battle sepsis which he said took her “to the brink.”

“We had the donor but Nicola was not well enough to get the stem cells,” he explained.

However in the last weeks Nicola has rallied and on Monday the couple signed the forms to press ahead with the stem cell transplant.

Patrick said that the stem cell donor, in Germany, has been fantastic and has been prepared to wait to donate until Nicola was well enough.

The donor will have to undergo a week long process and receive injections to boost his stem cells.

“We have had the most horrendous nine months,” he said. “We tried to wrap Nicola in a cocoon and keep her away from all bugs. But she’s had to deal with the sepsis and fluid on her lungs.”

Patrick thanked the many friends and family who had backed their campaign to recruit new donors.

“There have been hundreds of donors from Derry,” he said. “The effect has sprinkled throughout the world.”