Community AA Voices - personal stories All personal stories Merv's story: "I was in my twenties, in the army... I thought I was invincible, like Rambo." In 2007, Merv Lawrence was diagnosed with Very Severe Aplastic Anaemia - a rare life-threatening auto-immune disease that stops the bone marrow from producing blood cells. The father-of-three discovered he had the condition while serving in the British Army. He was visiting his partner, now wife, Beccy on a weekend’s leave when he learnt the devastating news. Merv said: "It was Saturday morning and we were walking round the supermarket when I suddenly felt dizzy, like I was going to pass out. “I’d been feeling tired and fatigued for a couple of months. I was bruising easily and bleeding from my gums. Until then, I’d brushed it off. I just thought I was run down. “Beccy said. 'you can’t carry on like this', so I went to a walk-in clinic. I spoke to the doctor about my symptoms. They did a blood test and said they’d let me know what they found. “Two hours later the doctor called me and said can you come back straight away? When I got back there, the doctor said I needed to be admitted to hospital urgently. “They explained that I had a disease which meant my bone marrow was no longer producing the blood cells my body needed. I asked what would happen without successful treatment, and they said I would be dead within nine months. “The news was impossible to grasp. I was in my twenties, in the army, and in the prime of my life. I thought I was invincible, like Rambo. My world just fell in.” After being admitted to hospital, Merv was given transfusions of the blood cells that his bone marrow had stopped producing. The severity of Merv’s condition meant that he had to have transfusions every three days. Doctors hoped that they could ‘kickstart’ his immune system, but the treatment was unsuccessful, and a bone marrow transplant became his only hope. Merv said: “I was put forward for a bone marrow transplant which was my only option. I was sat in a room and they told me my chances of a suitable donor. At that time the situation seemed desperate. Even if they found a match, there was no guarantee that the transplant would work.” Fortunately, a suitable donor was found in Germany and in March 2008, six months after his diagnosis, Merv was able to have a life-saving transplant. Merv said: “After the operation I was lucky enough to be able to write to my donor. I told him that he should be proud for the rest of his life of the selfless act he had done. And I promised him that I would spend the rest of my life working hard and putting my life to good use.” Following his life-saving treatment, Merv was medically discharged from the Army. After marrying Beccy in 2011 the couple welcomed their sons Charlie in 2011 and Lenny in 2013. However, in 2018, the pair’s third son, Teddy, was born with a life-threatening heart condition called ventricular septal defect. Holes between the lower chambers of Teddy’s heart were preventing the normal flow of blood to his lungs and making it difficult for him to breathe. When he was just nine weeks old Teddy had open heart surgery, and a procedure known as pulmonary artery banding. Because of breathing difficulties caused by his condition, Teddy has been fed through a tube since then. Teddy’s heart condition continues to affect his daily life and means that he will need further surgery in the coming months. Merv, who now works as a builder, said: “Teddy’s breathing has deteriorated recently. It means that we need to feed Teddy through a tube, and he has trouble sleeping. We’re seeing a heart specialist and Teddy will need another operation in the coming months to repair his heart. “It’s very tough to see what Teddy has to face every day. But he’s very active and loves playing with his brothers, and we know that there are people with much worse conditions and journeys.” To the moon and back Grateful for all the care that he and his family have received over the years, Merv has been inspired to make a virtual journey to the moon and back to raise money for four charities. Over the next 6 months Merv and the Moontrekkers crew will be aiming to run, walk or cycle a total of 10,000 miles. Read more about the challenge here or visit loveyoutothemoonandback.org.