Transplant News Sharing // News from Source www.birminghammail.co.uk
A Birmingham grandmother is pleading for a stem cell donor after being suddenly diagnosed with cancer in July.
Sheila Greenhill, from Selly Oak, was living an active, healthy life when she was struck with pain and fatigue that was later discovered to be Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS).
MDS is a type of rare blood cancer which means the 57-year-old doesn’t have enough healthy blood cells and needs an urgent stem cell transplant.
However, there were no matching donors in her family so she is begging the public for help to find a match.
She said: “Finding out I had MDS was devastating. This time the realisation sunk in that I alone couldn’t beat an illness and that my fate relied on the compassion of someone who didn’t know me.
“The more my family researched, I was saddened by how many people, like me are in need of a donor- a donor who doesn’t owe me anything – but could gift me more time with my family.
“I am currently having chemotherapy as well as regular blood and platelet transfusions, in the hope that a match can be found and I can begin the transplant process.”
The grandmother of seven children has a mixed heritage of British and Pakistani, making the search for a match that more difficult.
Currently patients from minority ethnic backgrounds have a 20% chance of finding the best possible match from an unrelated donor, compared to 69% for patients who are white, from North European backgrounds.
Sheila’s best hope will be someone with the same background as her.
Sheila’s daughter, Cheryl claims the family are doing all they can to protect their mum who is high risk for COVID as she lives in Selly Oak, one of the cities Coronavirus hotspots.
Cheryl has joined the plea to ask the public to give her mum a chance to enjoy a life with her grandchildren.
She said: “During the first week of September it was confirmed that mum did have MDS, and to treat it she was going to need a bone marrow transplant. At that time, we didn’t know how hard it is to find a match.
“We thought: ‘We’re her children, we’ll be tested and one of us is likely to be a match’ but didn’t know then that there isn’t always a match in the family. Now Anthony Nolan is trying to find a match on the register.
“It’s really difficult staying away but we want to protect mum from the risk of COVID. Restrictions mean that she is not able to live her life at the moment and see her family, especially her grandchildren.
“I hope to raise more awareness of the need for people to join the stem cell donor register, not just for my mom but for the thousands of people living in hope that they too will get there second chance of life. Stem cell donation has the power to save the life of someone else and it’s a gift we all possess.”
Sheila’s son Stephen said: “Finding out mom was ill during lockdown was hard, especially being miles away and unable to visit. Over the summer I was fortunate to come back home and had never seen her look and feel so unwell.
“A condition like MDS really makes you feel powerless and helpless as a son because there’s little you can do other than raise awareness.
“The current circumstances mean I can’t see my mom at all, and I feel helpless for her and the thousands of other people in her situation. I am only 80 miles away, but I can’t do the simple things like make her a cup of tea or leave some mess behind for her to tidy up.”
It costs £40 to add each new donor to the register.
To get more information on donating stem cells visit Anthony Nolan’s website.
People aged 31 and over can give patients the best possible chance of life by donating money to help Anthony Nolan add the best possible donors to our stem cell register.
Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, Henny Braund said: “Sheila’s already experienced so much in treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“That she now needs a stranger to give her a second chance of life is a cold indication of how much more work needs to be done to reduce inequality on the stem cell register.
“We have seen an increase in the number of people with mixed ethnicities signing up as potential stem cell donors in recent years, there is more that we need to do to make sure we can find everybody their best possible match, regardless of background.
“We’re incredibly grateful for everything Sheila and her family are doing to spread the word, during what will be a very difficult time. If you’re aged 16-30 and are in good general health please consider joining the Anthony Nolan register, especially if you have a mixed ethnicity.”
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