Janice’s Story

Janice’s son Liam was 14 when diagnosed with aplastic anaemia in 2011. Here is their story:

The 14th March 2011 was the day our world got turned upside down. My son, Liam, had shown me a huge bruise on his arm. I can’t explain why… Mother’s instinct, perhaps… but I just knew that something wasn’t quite right.

Liam had been feeling ill that day at school; he’d felt tired, light-headed and dizzy, and had also been sick. We took him to our local hospital and, after initial blood tests and an overnight stay, we were transferred to the Royal Hospital For Sick Children in Glasgow. Liam was immediately given a blood and platelet transfusion, which was to be the first of many over a period of eight months. Although the doctors had warned us we were going to an oncology ward for children, I never at that moment thought Liam was seriously ill. All I had in my head was that it was probably a virus; we would be given some antibiotics and then Liam would be sent home.

But that was not to be. We had to wait an agonising five days before we got test results that ruled out leukaemia. After this, many more tests were carried out to check for other illnesses. Finally, we had a diagnosis: Very Severe Aplastic Anaemia. Liam was just 14 years old.

Liam began some ATG (rabbit) treatment in May 2011. He had many unpleasant side effects, but in his own way, he coped really well. We had to wait three months to see if the treatment had been successful, and were devastated to find out that it hadn’t.

Liam’s consultant told us that they would start searching for a suitable bone marrow donor on the Anthony Nolan register, as Liam has no siblings. We were extremely fortunate that Liam had three possible matches show up and, in October 2011, Liam received his life saving transplant. It was an emotional day for us all; we didn’t know what to expect, but we were full of hope that it would be successful.

After the initial unpleasant side effects, thankfully Liam went from strength to strength. In fact, fast forward one year and Liam’s health was improving more every day. To add to this great news, we were told that Liam’s donor had agreed to have contact with us. A few anonymous cards and letters were exchanged over the next year, and it was such an amazing feeling to think that one day we may be able to thank this special person face to face.  For the time being, all we knew was that it was a 24 year-old man who went through bone marrow donation for our son. To say we were grateful was an understatement.

After two years, I was personally given Liam’s donor’s contact details… I think I must’ve written that first email a hundred times before I was happy with it.  What do you say to someone who’s saved your son’s life? I also remember the first time I saw a photo of Craig; the emotion was overwhelming. There was nothing I could do but cry when I thought about what this guy had done for our son. Now finally knowing his name and what he looked like, we just couldn’t wait to thank him in person. We were over the moon when we realised that Craig lived in Scotland, like us, meaning we could meet him at the earliest opportunity.

That day finally arrived in April 2014. We met Craig and his lovely wife Julie, who had been there to support him through the whole process. And what an emotional day it was.  Craig is such a kind, caring, genuine man who was delighted to finally meet Liam and see how far he had come. He was full of praise for Liam for coming through this horrible illness and we could immediately see there was a close bond between the two of them, which will be there now for life. In our eyes, Craig will always hold a special place in our hearts.  We are already looking forward to our next meeting, which will hopefully be sometime very soon.

Liam on transplant day

Liam on transplant day

CraigandLiam

Liam meeting his donor Craig for the first time