'Help save our grandson's life'

GRIEF-stricken grandparents still reeling from the news their grandchild has a rare form of leukaemia are pinning their hopes on the public to come forward and save his life.

GRIEF-stricken grandparents still reeling from the news their grandchild has a rare form of leukaemia are pinning their hopes on the public to come forward and save his life.

Tim and Rossie Bulwer-Long say an unrelated volunteer donor is the last chance of survival for two-year-old Billy Keith after tests on family members, including his 13-month-old sister Ella-Rose , and 340,000 volunteers on The Anthony Nolan Trust register failed to find a match.

A local donor clinic, organised by the Trust, is now being planned and Mr Bulwer-Long is urging people to attend in a bid to help his grandson and other leukaemia sufferers throughout the country.

Speaking from their Higham home, Mr Bulwer-Long said: "It is a tremendous worry that such a bright little person could be potentially suffering from a fatal disease.

"He is such a bright, active little chap and he is greatly loved by his big, close family.

"Billy's illness has acted like a catalyst and made us aware of a problem so many children are facing.

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"We want to promote The Anthony Nolan Trust for the people out there who are like Billy. We are trying our best to make sure more people are aware that there are shortages of bone marrow and stem cells in the country.

"We have found no match for Billy so far but we are remaining very positive and the clinic in Newmarket might be able to provide a match, if not for Billy then maybe for another child like him."

Mr Bulwer-Long said Billy's parents, barrister Hugo Keith and former Newmarket school pupil Lottie who now live in London, have remained optimistic since the youngster was diagnosed with leukaemia in March.

Suffering from a rare and potentially deadly form of severe aplastic anaemia, Billy's only hope is a bone marrow or a stem cell transplant, a similar process to giving blood.

The worried grandfather said: "In March, Billy got chicken pox very badly and he virtually went black around his spots and it was very bad in the inside of his eyelids.

"He made several visits to hospital but nothing was diagnosed. After that Billy got substantial black bruises from comparatively light falls.

"The hospital didn't know what it was but when he went to a paediatrician, Billy was immediately referred to the St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London.

"He had to go through numerous tests and leukaemia was initially discovered and then the more rarer severe aplastic anaemia."

Since being diagnosed, Billy, who was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, has undergone a series of transfusions and now has to wait and hope for a donor.

Mrs Keith, a former teacher, went to Fairstead House School in Newmarket and then Kings College Preparatory School in Cambridge before marrying her husband at Gazeley Church in 1999 and moving to London.

She said: "Billy desperately needs a matched donor. His only hope of a cure is a blood stem or bone marrow transplant from a donor who shares the same tissue type.

"His sister Ella Rose is not a match and therefore an unrelated volunteer donor is required.

"Whether or not a new donor is a match for Billy, we have come to realise there are hundreds of other children like him, and adults, for whom a new donor could be their last chance of staying alive."

Having turned their dining room into an office devoted to the Trust, Mr and Mrs Bulwer-Long are now in the process of distributing 5,000 leaflets advertising next month's clinic .

A horse racing manager, Mr Bulwer-Long is hoping the racing fraternity in Newmarket will support and attend.

Racing stables and stud farms will be lobbied along with health centres, schools and churches in Newmarket and the surrounding villages.

Mr Bulwer-Long said: "The clinic starts in people's lunch hours so people don't have to miss work and we are hoping to secure the support of jockeys like Frankie Dettori and Kieren Fallon.

"It is such a simple thing to do. All people have to do is go to the clinic and sign some forms to become registered with The Anthony Nolan Trust."

The clinic will be held at the Memorial Hall, High Street, Newmarket on November 19 between 1pm and 4pm.

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