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Merseyside Mum of battling baby Francis joins charity drive to help find more life-saving stem cell donors

9 months ago

Merseyside Mum of battling baby Francis joins charity drive to help find more life-saving stem cell donors

The Liverpool mum whose baby boy urgently needs a bone marrow transplant to battle a rare and aggressive form of cancer is appealing to people to attend a charity donor drive in Bootle.

Anna Holland, from Formby, whose tiny son, Francis, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) at 15 weeks old, says: “It would mean a lot to us as a family for people to go along and register as a potential donor.

“Until you go through something as serious as what we’re going through, you don’t really think to do things like this. But it is so important – it could save someone’s life.”

She reveals the family is coping well with Francis’ illness and feeling positive about the future: “We’re doing okay, and Francis is okay as he can be,” adds Anna.

“It can feel like he is never going to be better at the minute as every day we tackle a new problem.  But we are hopeful.

“We would be so excited to hear the words ‘he has a donor’, as we know this would be his second chance at life.”

Anna has spoken of how her concerns began when Francis started to come out in strange marks on his body at just six weeks old. When she took him to the GP with a high temperature, it was initially thought he was suffering from sepsis.

stem cell - The Guide Liverpool
Francis with parents, Anna and Aaron

But on August 9 the family was given the devastating news that Francis was critically ill with AML.

He has already undergone gruelling chemotherapy – but doctors have said his best chance of survival is having a bone marrow transplant from a donor who is a 10 out of 10 match with him.

Anna has already issued an appeal for people to take a test to see if they are a match for her son and a banner with a picture of Francis and appealing for donors was unveiled during Liverpool FC’s home game against Bournemouth in August, saying: “This is Francis. He needs your help.”

Now, as they wait and hope for the perfect stem cell match that he desperately needs to survive, the family have joined blood cancer charity, DKMS, to organise the special blood stem cell donor registration event in Bootle.

It will take place between 1pm- 6pm on Saturday, September 16, at the Activity for All Centre, in Maguire Avenue.

People from across Merseyside and beyond can attend the drive where volunteers trained by DKMS will make registering as a potential donor quick and easy, with a simple mouth swab which can be done in under 15 minutes. 

But although it’s a simple act, for both Anna and DKMS it means new potential donors could be found and registered who can give hope not just to Francis, but to other blood cancer patients in need.

“The more people who register, the more lives we can save,” says Anna.  “The desperation is real. You don’t ever think anything like this will happen to you. 

“Registering is a quick process involving a simple mouth swab, and you could be giving Francis or other patients with blood cancer or blood disorders a second chance of life. We are over the moon to be working with DKMS and have already had thousands of messages of people wanting to come and get tested.

set cell appeal - The Guide Liverpool

“So, if you’re aged 17-55 and in general good health, please come and get registered with DKMS.”

DKMS holds the UK’s biggest register of donors, with more than 950,00 people registered. 

However, research shows that only 3% of the UK population is registered as a stem cell donor when more than 110,000 in the UK are living with blood cancer, and nearly 2,000 UK-based children are diagnosed with blood cancer each year.

Deborah Hyde, DKMS communications manager, says: “By registering with DKMS to become a stem cell donor, you’re offering hope for a second chance at a happy and healthy life for baby Francis and patients like him who have blood cancer or blood disorders. 

“We currently have over 950,000 people registered in the UK as potential donors, but we’re keen to see a big increase. Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with blood cancer, and each will need to go through the process of finding a matching stem cell donor. We’d love people in the Liverpool area to set the pace for the rest of the country by coming along to get signed up at our Bootle event: your support will mean so much to families like Francis’ who are urgently waiting to find a match.” 

DKMS is supporting further donor registration events across the UK to mark September as Blood Cancer Awareness Month. There will also be another registration event organised by DKMS on Sunday, September 17 September in the car park of Tesco’s superstore, Deysbrook Lane, Liverpool, L12 4YL between 9am to 2pm. 

If you are unable to attend a registration event in person, you can register online at www.dkms.org.uk/register-now , where you can also find out more about the process of donating stem cells.

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