A BABY girl has received a life-saving bone marrow transplant thanks to a kind-hearted stranger.
Little Ava-Jai McInerney was just four-and-a-half months old when she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
She was initially taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital with suspected meningitis by her anxious parents Janine and Chris McInerney, before she was transferred to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with AML.
Ava-Jai, who is now nine-months-old, has been in and out of hospital ever since, and is currently in semi-isolation on the ward, recovering from her transplant.
Janine said: “She’s usually a really happy, smiley baby and she just wasn’t herself.
“She was miserable over a weekend, and I took her to the doctor on the Monday.
“They thought she had meningitis and she was blue lighted to Blackburn Hospital.
“Her blood wasn’t right and they transferred her to Manchester, and she was diagnosed there.”
Acute myeloid leukaemia is very rare, particularly among babies, as the risk of developing AML increases with age, and it is most common in people over 65-years-old.
Ava-Jai’s parents, who live in Apple Tree Way, Oswaldtwistle, with her twin brother William and elder brother Brandon, 18, were told that she would need four rounds of chemotherapy, but she responded well after just two.
However, further tests showed that the type of cancer Ava-Jai had presented a high risk of it returning, with the chance of a relapse at 80 per cent, instead of the usual 20 per cent.
Because of this her parents were told she would need a bone marrow transplant.
Around 30 per cent of people in need of a transplant can find a suitable donor in their family, and her twin brother William was tested, but was not a suitable match.
Instead, a match was found for Ava-Jai through the Anthony Nolan Trust, which helps the other 70 per cent of bone marrow recipients to find a stranger to save their lives.
The Trust has more than 500,000 adults on its register, and every time someone comes to them in need of a transplant, they check their register for a match. The charity makes more than 1,000 matches every year.
Ava-Jai was lucky, and the Trust found her three suitable matches within six weeks - two women in the UK, and a man in Germany - and bone marrow was transplanted from a 21-year-old woman.
The family is hoping that Ava-Jai will now make a good recovery, and they will be able to get back to normal family life.
Janine said: “It’s been really, really hard, but things are starting to go in the right direction.
“She responded really, really well to chemotherapy, it did what it was meant to do, but it made her really poorly.
“She’s had it hard. She’s been on a morphine infusion, and with her last round of chemotherapy she slept for a week.
“She’s so brave, she really is, she’s braver than me.
“Since she had her transplant Chris and I haven’t really seen each other, we’ll do two days each at the hospital and swap over.
“When Ava-Jai was in full isolation we’d swap William at the door, and not spend any time with each other.
“William was allowed to see her on Friday for the first time since the transplant.
“There were a few smiles at each other.
“We FaceTime and when they see each other they both get excited.
“When she’s better we want to do as much as we can, we want to do everything! We want to catch up on lost time.
“You’re meant to enjoy your babies, and William is developing and doing new things every day.
“I don’t think I would have been able to get through it without him and his little smile.
“With the drugs Ava’s been on it holds her back a little, but she catches up.”
Janine is now urging other to sign up as bone marrow donors with the Anthony Nolan Trust.
She said: “You hear of people who are still waiting years and years down the line for a match.
“The longer they wait the more chemotherapy they have to have, and it’s horrendous what chemotherapy does to them.
“They need more people to sign up. There are people who are still waiting, children that are still waiting, and people having to take half matches because that’s all they can get.
“And it’s just a swab test to see if you’re a match.”
Janine also praised the staff at Manchester Children’s Hospital, where Ava-Jai is currently being treated.
She said: “They’ve been really good, absolutely fantastic. They understand and they’ve been so good with William.
“It’s like a second family, we’ve met so many nice people there, people who are going through worse than us as well.”
To sign up to the Anthony Nolan register, visit: http://www.anthonynolan.org/8-ways-you-could-save-life/donate-your-stem-cells/apply-join-our-register