"This is how you could save a life with the push of a button," urges family of Sheffield boy with leukaemia

The family of a Sheffield teenager currently fighting leukaemia have shared their story to appeal for more people to join the stem cell donor list.

By Nik Farah
Tuesday, 25 June, 2019, 11:45
#TeamH assembles to urges people to join the Anthony Nolan and NHS Stem Cell Registry

Harrison Walch was just 14 when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia after his mum, Nickie, noticed bruises on his body.

“I initially put it down to him being a growing teenage boy,” said Nickie.

“But then more appeared and he was becoming increasingly tried. I remember one day we went for a long dog walk, and he was struggling to cycle. I looked for his symptoms online. Leukaemia came up and I had a sick feeling in my stomach.”

Nickie took Harrison to his GP who did a blood test, and found the Aston boy’s white count was extremely high. Harrison was admitted to the oncology ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

“Our worst fears were realised,” said Nickie.

“The consultant explained that it was likely to be leukaemia and that Harrison would need a bone marrow biopsy and to have a line in his chest to have chemotherapy.

“Devastated does not even begin to cover how we were feeling. I kept thinking ‘how could this happen to our beautiful son?’ You read about it, see it on social media and the TV, but you never ever think your child will be diagnosed with cancer.”

Harrison started chemotherapy the next day and has since completed two cycles of treatment. After his second cycle, doctors discovered that Harrison may be at higher risk of the leukaemia returning and would need a stem cell transplant – putting new, healthy stem cells into his bloodstream. Nobody in his family was a match.

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“Anthony Nolan has checked the worldwide stem cell register and there isn’t currently a perfect match for Harrison,” said Nickie.

“He has taken it all in his stride and tried to be positive, despite some down days. We really want to spread the word. We didn’t know about the stem cell register, which is ridiculous – all those people, worldwide, that need help.

“It’s important to get our story out to raise awareness and hopefully inspire more people to sign up. How amazing would it be to save someone’s life?”

Rebecca Pritchard, head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, said: “Somewhere out there is Harrison’s perfect match who could help give him a second chance of life and we are doing everything we can to support his family, as they search for a donor.

“We want to give patients the very best chance, and every single person who joins the Anthony Nolan register has the potential to help save a life. If you’re aged 16-30 and in good general health, you can join the register online and we’ll send you a cheek swab in the post.

“If you’re found to be a match for a patient, you could donate your stem cells and give hope to families like Harrison’s. Without you, there is no cure.”