Teenager hoping for bone marrow donor

A COURAGEOUS 15-year-old who is suffering from leukaemia has launched an urgent appeal for a local lifesaver.Luisa Docherty, of Oakley Road, Dovercourt, was diagnosed with life-threatening acute lymphobastic leukaemia in 2002 after complaining of headaches and earaches.

By Sharon Asplin

A COURAGEOUS 15-year-old who is suffering from leukaemia has launched an urgent appeal for a local lifesaver.

Luisa Docherty, of Oakley Road, Dovercourt, was diagnosed with life-threatening acute lymphobastic leukaemia in 2002 after complaining of headaches and earaches.

She underwent a gruelling series of treatments at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, including chemotherapy. During it, the sports-mad Ipswich High School pupil lost her hair and at one stage could not eat or swallow.

Her family was overjoyed when a year ago she was given the all-clear but now the cancer has returned and doctors have told Luisa and her parents Toni and Chris the best form of treatment now would be a bone marrow transplant.

So, with the help of the Anthony Nolan Trust, Luisa's grandmother Frances Vincent has organised a special donor clinic in the Cliff Hotel, Dovercourt, next Wednesday to find suitable donors who could save Luisa's life, as well as helping other patients in need of the same treatment.

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Mrs Vincent said Luisa's elder sister Anna, 17, had already been tested but was not a suitable match.

“The search to find a donor for Luisa started two weeks ago and we are appealing for as many people as possible to come along on October 19,” she said.

“Luisa's illness is particularly hard for her immediate family but everyone is doing their bit and friends have been tremendous. Even people you do not really know have been wonderful.

“My granddaughter is a very clever girl with great potential. She has taken up playing the drums since she became ill. In a way she was shy yet if she has got to do something she will do it so she has confidence underneath. I honestly do not know how she can go through it, especially as she has been through it all before - it takes a tremendous amount of courage.”

According to the Anthony Nolan Trust, every 21 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disorder, such as leukaemia, where often the only chance of a full cure is to have a bone marrow transplant.

Fewer than 30% of these patients will find a family member with compatible blood stem cells to donate. For the rest, an unrelated donor is the only chance.

The trust can save lives by matching patients in need of a transplant with people committed to donating their bone marrow. Details are compiled on a bone marrow register.

The Anthony Nolan Trust is working with Mrs Vincent and family friends Margaret Smith and Kate Aggott to raise awareness surrounding the need for more bone marrow donors and has set up the donor session.

Lynsey Dickson, from the Anthony Nolan Trust, said: “The Anthony Nolan Register can never be big enough if we are to fulfil our mission and provide a transplant for any patient in the world in need of bone marrow.

“For this reason, it is so important that if you are eligible to join the register, to think seriously about it as the more people we have registering, the more chance we have of finding those life-saving matches for patients like Luisa that desperately need them.”

The East Anglian Daily Times set up a campaign in February 2003 to raise funds for Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood (CLIC). Since then people across the region have taken part in a range of fundraising activities, raising tens of thousands of pounds in the process. Luisa's family and friends have raised thousands of pounds themselves for young cancer sufferers.

n THE bone marrow donor clinic takes place on Wednesday, October 19, between 4pm and 8pm at the Cliff Hotel, Dovercourt.

n To register as a bone marrow donor, you must be aged between 18 and 40 years, in good general health, weigh more than eight stone and be willing to help save the life of any patient you may match.

n There is a particular shortage on the register of young men and people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

n A blood sample will be taken at the clinic and should a donor be called on to donate stem cells, a short hospital stay is required. Stem cells can be donated in two ways - either direct from the bone marrow via the pelvis under a general anaesthetic (cells will regenerate in the body within 21 days) or after a series of injections to increase stem cell production, the extra cells are withdrawn from veins in the arms (similar to platelet donation).

n Donors have the choice of donation method and all donations take place in London. All donor's loss of earnings and travel costs are covered and donors have a full medical prior to donating.

n Bone marrow, found in the centre of all large bones, is the “factory” where new blood cells are made. Without it bodies would be unable to produce the white cells needed to fight infection or the red cells needed to carry oxygen and remove waste products from organs and tissues. Absence of healthy bone marrow also prevents the production of platelets, which help blood to clot and stop bleeding.

n For more information about becoming a bone marrow donor, visit the Anthony Nolan website at www.anthonynolan.org.uk or call 0207 284 1234.

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