Chester-le-Street toddler saved by US stem cell donor

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Derwentside & Tyneside)

A TODDLER from the North-East is in remission after a transatlantic appeal led to a life-saving stem cell transplant.

William Morris, just six weeks old when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, has been treated with blood stem cells taken from an anonymous newborn’s umbilical cord in the United States.

An overseas donor proved the only hope after no suitable matches could be found in this country.

The 18-month-old boy from Chester-le-Street, County Durham, had already undergone four courses of intensive chemotherapy, which proved unsuccessful, and within a month his condition had relapsed.

However, following the pioneering operation at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary he is now in remission.

His mother, Catherine Wray, 28, said: “I don’t know who the donor is, but I wish I could send a letter to the mum saying ‘thank you for helping to save my son’s life.”

On Mother's Day last year, William was admitted to the RVI's Bubble Unit, where he remained in isolation for two months.

He was given a cord blood stem-cell transplant at the end of March and began responding well to the treatment.

He is now back at home and enjoying life with his mother and father, Christopher Morris, 28.

"William is like any other child his age and to look at him, you would not think that anything had been wrong," added his mother

"He is a cheeky and loveable bou. He is so special in every way."

Dr Sujith Samarasinghe, a consultant paediatric haematologist at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “William had a high-risk leukaemia.

“Since the transplant he is doing extremely well.

“It is early days, but there is now no evidence of leukaemia in his system.”

Ms Wray, now pregnant with twins, has decided to get the umbilical cords of her babies frozen and “banked”, if they prove a suitable match for William - in case cord blood stem cells need to be used at a later date.

She added: “When William was diagnosed with leukaemia, it was devastating. It was the last thing that we had expected.

"It was a really scary time as William was so poorly, but we had full faith in the consultants and are so grateful that a stem cell match was found for William.”

William recently received a Cancer Research UK Little Star Award, made in partnership with TK Maxx, for his bravery in coping with his condition.

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