Teenager looks forward to Christmas after transplant

A Taverham teenager is looking forward to the best Christmas he has had in years after battling back from a bone marrow transplant.

Brandon Steward was just 12 when he was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia in the week before Christmas in 2008.

The rare condition meant his bone marrow did not produce enough blood cells and this time last year he was being kept alive with platelet transfusions every five to seven days and a six-hour blood transfusion every two to three weeks, along with a cocktail of drugs.

Brandon, who is now 14, put out an appeal for people to register for bone marrow donation as he and his family anxiously waited for a match for to be found, as another form of treatment – a course of anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) – had failed.

In March this year, the Taverham High School pupil had to first undergo 10 days of chemotherapy before travelling to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for a transplant operation.

He was kept in isolation for 21 days and was at home and recovering well when four months later he developed complications.

The newly-created white blood cells started to attack the rest of his body in graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), and he was left with a severe eczema-type rash which caused his skin to flake.

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But a few weeks ago, specialists were able to give Brandon the right drugs and the condition has cleared up and the sports-loving youngster is hoping to return to school soon.

Brandon, who lives in Walters Road with his father Gary, 41, step mother Denise, 33 and half-sister Sian, seven, said: 'Hopefully Christmas will be the best I have had in a few years.

'It's been a very bad experience but I've met some incredible people on the way who have helped me, including doctors, nurses and patients.

'They have all been brilliant and I have got to know them all so well.

'It seems like I have had it for so long I can't remember normality so I am just looking forward to getting back to normal.'

Brandon, who was on his school's football team before his illness, is particularly looking forward to getting back to playing football, tennis and other sports, though he will have to build up his muscle fitness slowly over the coming months.

However, it will still be a while before he can swim again, which is what he has really missed, as his immune system is still too vulnerable. He also hopes to one day study medicine and become a consultant specialising in aplastic anaemia and says the home tuition he has had this year has helped him to keep up with his education.

Father Gary said: 'There's now light at the end of the tunnel. We were warned it would be quite a journey and it has been hard.

'The help at the hospitals has been absolutely brilliant, especially the nurses on Buxton Ward at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. They have been 100pc brilliant.

'It's not over yet as we've been told there is a chance in the next two to three years of him getting leukaemia, but Christmas this year is going to be a lot better than a couple of years ago.'

Do you have a good news health story for the Evening News? Contact health reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk.

The little girl who mustn't get excited at Christmas – page 15