A young man from South Yorkshire who spent much of his childhood in and out of hospital in Sheffield battling leukaemia has triumphed in the face of adversity and has just started a course in ethical computer hacking at university.
Unlike other young boys Adam Thomas spent many of his early and teenage years in and out of hospital undergoing countless tests and treatments.
Adam was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was just five years old, and later with Epstein Barr virus – a herpes virus which causes glandular fever and certain cancers – so his time at school was severely limited.
Epstein Barr virus was unheard of when it was discovered at The Children’s Hospital, where Adam was first treated, and he recovered from the extreme illness after taking an untrialled drug called Rituximab, as a last resort.
At the age of 13, Adam underwent a six-hour bone marrow transplant at Newcastle General Hospital’s celebrated ‘bubble unit’, and was seen by millions of viewers on television after Children in Need featured his story. His family, mum Sarah, dad Gwyn and sister Jessica, who all live in Bawtry, Doncaster, were with him throughout and the surgery was a success.
Afterwards Adam spent three months in isolation and many more away from school, as he recovered slowly at the family home in North Avenue.
Adam’s never complained about all he’s had to go through. We have had some very scary times but we accepted that we just had to get on with itSarah Thomas (Adam’s mum)
But fast forward eight years and Adam is now a happy, healthy 21-year-old.
He has been in remission for some years and recently started an exciting new chapter in his life at Coventry University. Despite his interrupted schooling, Adam achieved good GCSEs and began A-Level studies but struggled latterly with his subject choices.
He took some time to reconsider his future and finally settled on an access-to- higher-education course in IT at Doncaster College.
This set him on a new pathway and he discovered a whole new area of study and a potential career that really sparked his interest.
Access programmes aim to enable ‘adult returnees’ to use past work and life experiences to increase their self confidence and academic skills.
Adam’s mum Sarah said: “Adam’s never complained about all he’s had to go through. We have had some very scary times but we accepted that we just had to get on with it.
“The past five years or so have been calmer and as a mum, I feel as long as Adam is okay then I can cope. Both Bawtry Mayflower Primary and The Hayfield School were great with Adam.”
She said had he continued with his A-Levels he would have pursued a forensic science course.
“Now he is on a degree course in ethical hacking and network security, and seems completely absorbed by it.
“Prior to his access course he had no idea this area of study was available, and he’s really impressed with Coventry University.
“I think teenagers don’t delve deeply enough in to what is out there before making choices. This feels exactly right for Adam.”
Until the age of 17 Adam was still a regular visitor to hospital, so immunoglobulins could be pumped in to his system because his immune system does not produce antibodies.
Now he can administer the weekly two-hour treatment himself, by needle into his stomach, just under the skin, and unless there is cause to go sooner, his hospital visits are every six months.
Blood donations make this possible.
Sarah said a year ago Adam suffered a bout of ’flu and medical staff at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital discovered his system had produced some antibodies of its own, which surprised staff and should bode well for Adam’s health in the future.
Sarah added: “My underlying worry about him going to university is wondering if he could get help quickly enough should he need it.
“But he has medical support in Sheffield by telephone and the university is aware of his condition.
“He’s led a pretty normal life in many ways and I’m very proud of what he’s achieved.”