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Bone marrow donor comes forward to help brave Taverham teenager

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:09 02 July 2010

Brandon Steward

Brandon Steward

Sam Emanuel

A teenager with a potentially life-threatening bone marrow condition has finally found a donor after months of uncertainty.

Brandon Steward is now getting set for the operation that will change his life.

A teenager with a potentially life-threatening bone marrow condition has finally found a donor after months of uncertainty.

Brandon Steward is now getting set for the operation that will change his life.

The 13-year-old has aplastic anaemia - a condition which means his bone marrow does not produce enough blood cells and means he could be killed by a slight bang on the head.

Brandon from Taverham, who has to take hundreds of tablets and go to hospital several times a week, has been waiting for a bone-marrow match since September when another type of treatment failed, and says he is “scared but excited” by the news that a donor has been found.

Untreated, aplastic anaemia can lead to death within a matter of months, but a platelet transfusion every five to seven days and a six hour blood transfusion every two to three weeks has kept Brandon alive.

However, because of his Hickman line, an intravenous catheter used for injecting medicines and taking blood, which he has had inserted since January, he can no longer go swimming and has to watch sports lessons from the sidelines.

His step-mother, Denise, 32, said: “We got a phone call on Friday from the consultant saying they had found a match. We don't know whether they have come from the UK or whether they are from somewhere else in the world.

“Brandon is going to be admitted to hospital in Bristol on March 8, and the donor harvesting will take place on March 18. He is really pleased - he wasn't hesitant at all and he is really excited. He said that this is his cure and doesn't care about any risks.

“After he is admitted, he will have to have two weeks of chemotherapy to kill off all his bone marrow cells. After that, the bone marrow will be put into Brandon. We don't know too much more about what will happen at the moment as we are still waiting to meet the consultant.

“He will have to go down to Bristol for three days beforehand to have lots of tests to make sure his body is physically fit enough for the operation, which I'm sure he will be, and then after the operation he has to be in isolation and we will have to 'gown up' every time we see him.

“Then for quite a few months he will have to stay at home - he won't be able to go to school until September, so we will probably try and get him some home tutoring.

“I am really excited, but there are always the 'what ifs' as well - his body might reject the organ - although we try not to show Brandon that we have any worries.”

Brandon, who lives with Denise, his father Gary, 40, and his half-sister Sian, six, will first be examined to check the condition of his internal organs, as some of the medicines used can occasionally cause problems with these organs.

Next he will have chemotherapy to kill his existing bone marrow and stop his immune system from working in order to lessen the chance of his body rejecting the transplant.

The side effects may include vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, mouth ulcers, tiredness, skin rashes and hair loss, but Brandon is undeterred and is determined to have the operation.

He said he hope the transplant will improve his life, but added that if his body rejects the bone marrow, his other organs could be affected.

He said: “I do find it difficult because I can't join in PE lessons at school, I just have to stand and watch while everyone plays, and if I get an infection of any kind, like throat or ear, I am in hospital for four or five days.

“Platelet count should be between 150 billion and 400 billion per litre, but mine has been down to just one billion. There should also be about 13g of haemoglobin per 100ml of blood, but mine has been down to 5.6g.

“I started to feel giddy and couldn't really move without falling over. I get quite a lot of leg pain and am sick quite a bit but I try not to moan.”

After the chemotherapy, bone marrow will be removed from the donor using a special needle while they are under general anaesthetic, and then the cells will be passed into Brandon's body through his heart in an hour-long painless procedure.

After that, he will remain in hospital in isolation, and his parents will have to don surgical masks, gowns and gloves to visit him in order to prevent the spread of infection.

The family hope his story will encourage other people to sign up for the bone marrow register. Brandon said: “I would urge people to donate not just bone marrow but everything.”

The Anthony Nolan Trust, a bone marrow transplant charity, will be recruiting donors at Taverham High School on February 27 between 11am and 4pm, and more information can be found on their website, www.anthonynolan.org.uk, or by calling 0303 303 0303.

If you are able to help support the family financially during this difficult time, please call Sam Emanuel on 01603 772438 or email sam.emanuel@archant.co.uk.

Are you battling a rare condition? Call reporter Sam Emanuel on 01603 772438 or email sam.emanuel@archant.co.uk.

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