Gabriel's family are happy for me to share his story. This is their story.

In October 2021 Gabriel started to bruise without reason. He had no other symptoms except for sometimes looking a little pale. In the space of that initial week, he'd been to A & E twice and began bleeding from his gums, nose, bladder, and also internally - we've barely been home since. After a further 2 weeks we were given the devastating diagnosis of very severe aplastic anaemia (VSAA). And in an instant our lives were turned upside down and we were thrown into this new frightening world of medical terms, tests, biopsies, drugs that we would never have thought would ever happen to us.

Aplastic anaemia is a rare life threatening condition whereby the body stops producing new blood cells. In Gabriel's case, this has arisen de novo (out of the blue) whereby his own immune system began attacking the stem cells in his bone marrow without reason. I always knew my boy was 1 in a million but how I wish it wasn't in this way.

Without an immune system, Gabriel was (and still is) fatigued easily and more prone to infections and uncontrolled bleeding. His only chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant (BMT).

Two unrelated matched donors were found from abroad and Donor A agreed to donate. Hoeever, on day 5 of Gabriel's conditioning treatment (chemotherapy which made him horribly sick) we were told that the Donor A had contracted covid and couldn't donate. So my poor boy was left even more vulnerable to life-threatening infection but now with zero blood cells to fight anything off. Donor B thankfully then agreed to donate and on 30th December 2021, after having spent Christmas in isolation in hospital undergoing additional chemotherapy, Gabriel had his transplant. 41 days post-transplant and we are still in isolation at Sheffield Children's Hospital (SCH) where he continues to face additional post- transplant hurdles

To date, in the 4 months since his diagnosis, Gabriel has endured 74 overnight stays and 25 days in hospital, 2 A&E trips, 3 general anaesthetics, 3 bone marrows, 1 skin biopsy, 41 platelet transfusions, 13 red blood cell transfusions, 14 additional immune therapy treatments, 9 scans, 3 NG (feeding tube) placements, a broviac central line placement, 51 days of steroids, 7 days of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, had 3 infections and 10 days of intravenous antibiotics in addition to the daily cocktail of prophylactic medicines he takes pre-emptively to help prevent viral/bacterial and fungal infections. He's recovered from 3 infections requiring hospitalisation and is currently fighting two viruses that threaten to derail us.

He spent the whole of Christmas 2021 and his 9th birthday in hospital and has barely complained. He continues to amaze me with his uncomplaining attitude and sweet, loving nature even the steroids couldn't break, and inspires me to try and live each day with just a fraction of that positivity. Without doubt there have been some incredibly dark moments and thoughts but we have no choice but to use Gabriel as our example and battle on.

Without the wonderful, selfless people who regularly donate blood and those who join the bone marrow registry, there is no doubt that we wouldn't have come this far. Even if you don't donate please do, at the very least, read about blood donation and the amazing work Anthony Nolan do in matching potential donors to recipients like Gabriel. It could one day be someone in your family in desperate need of these services.

https://www.anthonynolan.org/

https://www.blood.co.uk/the-donation-process/about-our-donation-venues/sheffield/

Thank you.

Maria Panayi (Gabriel's mum)

Susan Jones