Wednesday 28 June 2017

Irish mum pens touching letter to stranger who saved her baby's life as he prepares to start playschool

James (3) will start play-school in September after a successful bone marrow transplant
James (3) will start play-school in September after a successful bone marrow transplant
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

A mum whose baby son may have died if it weren't for the generosity of an anonymous bone marrow donor has penned a letter to the hero who gave her child "a fighting chance".

Karen Morgan's son James (3) was born with an extremely low neutrophil count in November 2013 as a result of an undiagnosed genetic condition, which meant that his body was not producing the amount of white blood cells needed to fight infection.

James was born with a genetic condition, which meant his body failed to produce white blood cells, vital for fighting infection.
James was born with a genetic condition, which meant his body failed to produce white blood cells, vital for fighting infection.

The little boy, from Kells in Meath, spent the first year of his life in hospital before doctors confirmed that a bone marrow transplant would be the only way to save James' life.

Although a match was found ahead of James' first birthday in December 2014, his mum Karen (29) and dad Ronan (35) were devastated when his bone marrow transplant failed just four months after the procedure in Crumlin Children's Hospital.

James celebrated his first birthday in Crumlin Children's Hospital days after his first bone marrow transplant, which later failed.
James celebrated his first birthday in Crumlin Children's Hospital days after his first bone marrow transplant, which later failed.

"It was heartbreaking to get news that it had failed. Our world and all our plans came crashing down once again," said Karen.

"Everything had been going so well and this was the last thing we expected to hear. After much discussion and research the team of specialists in Crumlin advised that a second bone marrow transplant was the best option."

James celebrates an early Christmas in November 2014, ahead of his second bone marrow transplant.
James celebrates an early Christmas in November 2014, ahead of his second bone marrow transplant.

This week, James and his family are celebrating the one year anniversary of his successful second bone transplant, which his family said has allowed them to be "normal" for the first time.

The happy three-year-old has a lot to look forward to as he is due to start play-school in September and is also expecting a baby brother or sister in June.

In an open letter to the bone marrow donors who Karen calls James' unknown heroes, the mum said she hopes they know how their selfless act impacted her child's life.

"Here we are finally at the end of the transplant journey. After so many fails and disappointments over the last number of years it has been hard to let ourselves plan ahead or get excited about life. But here we are, one year later and although it will never be 100pc, we can start to relax in the hope that this time it has worked.

James pictured with his mum Karen and dad Ronan. The family are expecting a second baby in June.
James pictured with his mum Karen and dad Ronan. The family are expecting a second baby in June.

"Although we may not know your name, we do know that you are both the most incredible men we have ever come across. Your selfless act of donating your bone marrow to save our son's life is one we are beyond grateful to you for and although the first transplant failed, without it we would have never gotten him to the second one. His life and the one he will go on to live is all thanks to both of you," she said.

Karen hopes James will grow up with sense of humanity as his kind donors.

"His life and the one he will go on to live is all thanks to both of you and I only hope he goes on to not only live a happy, healthy life but takes your strong values in humanity on that journey with him," she said.

"Not only have you saved our son's life but you have given us ours back. We now have a future to look forward to and our little boy is with us and for that we thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

James is getting set to start play-school in September after a successful bone marrow transplant
James is getting set to start play-school in September after a successful bone marrow transplant

The mum and her husband Ronan have urged Irish people to carry organ donation cards and to consider donating blood and bone marrow to help save the lives of other children like James.

"We were so lucky our son had not one but two Bone Marrow matches. Unfortunately that is not the case for many people and we know of too many children who have no match. They live in limbo.

"James will never be able to donate blood or bone marrow but if by sharing his story encourages even one person to sign up and become a possible bone marrow donor then I feel we have done something to give back."

For more information on bone marrow and blood donation visit: www.giveblood.ie.

 

 

Read Karen's letter in full below:

An open letter to our unknown hero,

Like most first time parents we took it that everything would go to plan when our son arrived into the world. Little did we know that on December 18, 2013, his arrival and the days, weeks and three years that followed would be anything short of a nightmare.

The day of your first child’s birth is said to be the happiest day of a mother and father’s life but I can honestly say that this was not the case for us. Our son was gravely ill when he was born. We never had any warnings. It was quickly discovered that our baby had a zero neutrophil count. This meant that his bone marrow was not producing the white blood cells that help our bodies fight infection. We spent most of his first year in hospital battling infections and trying different drugs to try and boost his immune system. We came close to losing this tiny being who we had so much love for on more than one occasion but he had fighting spirit and always pulled through.

In November 2014, one of Crumlin’s top specialists in haematology confirmed what we already knew - the only way to save our son was to carry out a bone marrow transplant. The marrow would be taken from an anonymous donor and transplanted into our baby in the hope it would graph and promote the production of healthy bone marrow.

A strong course of chemotherapy would first have to be given in the days before transplant would take place. This was done to ensure his existing marrow would not impact the growth of the new marrow. Having any type of transplant comes with several complications including death but we knew we had no choice. If it worked it would give him a fighting chance. 

The date for transplant was set - December 8, 2014. Just one week before our boy’s first birthday. It was going to be our second Christmas in hospital. So at the end of November 2014 we had Christmas and made the most of what could possibly be our son’s last days at home. The day finally came and everything went to plan and after several weeks in hospital we were finally allowed take our boy home where we had to continue with a strict isolation routine for six months. We didn’t mind that because at the end of the 6 months we could finally be a normal family.

At least thats what we thought. Just four months after the transplant we got the heartbreaking news that it had failed. Our world and all our plans came crashing down once again. Everything had been going so well and this was the last thing we expected to hear. After much discussion and research, the team of specialists in Crumlin advised that a second bone marrow transplant was the best option. This time they would use a different donor and a more severe round of chemotherapy. What choice did we have? We signed the paperwork and a new date, February 25, 2016, was set. Once again everything went as it should and after another long number of weeks in hospital we got home.

This week marks the one year anniversary of the second transplant. It's knows as a ‘rebirth day’ and here we are finally at the end of the transplant journey. After so many fails and disappointments over the last number of years it has been hard to let ourselves plan ahead or get excited about life. But here we are, one year later and although it will never be 100pc we can start to relax in the hope that this time it has worked.

James is now three, and doing very well. We spent our first Christmas just gone at home and it was magical. James will be starting play-school in September this year and with the impending arrival of a new baby we are slowly learning to relax and let ourselves get excited about the future. James is a very happy social little boy. He is high on life and there is never a dull moment when he is around. We could burst with the love we have for him.

I have addressed this for an ‘unknown hero’. In our case there are two of you. And although we may not know your name or much about you we do know that you are both the most incredible men we have ever come across. Your selfless act of donating your bone marrow to save our son's life is one we are beyond grateful to you for and although the first transplant failed, without it we would have never gotten him to the second one. His life and the one he will go on to live is all thanks to both of you and I only hope he goes on to not only live a happy healthy life but takes your strong values in humanity on that journey with him.

Not only have you saved our son's life but you have given us ours back. We now have a future to look forward to and our little boy is with us and for that we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

We were so lucky our son had not one but two bone marrow matches. Unfortunately that is not the case for many people and we know of too many children who have no match. They live in limbo.

James will never be able to donate blood or bone marrow but if by sharing his story encourages even one person to sign up and become a possible bone marrow donor then I feel we have done something to give back.

There are no words I can write that will explain our thanks to you. But know we think of you every day and you will always play a huge part in our lives.

Love,

Karen, Ronan and James

 

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