The family of an heroic big sister today told how she has undergone gruelling surgery to help save her young brother’s life.
Kristopher Turner, from South Shore, suffered a relapse in his fight against leukaemia his whole family underwent testing to see if they were a bone marrow match.
And when big sister Lacey, 15, was found to be a perfect match she had no hesitation in having bone marrow removed from her back and hips to be transplanted into her brother, who also suffers from autism.
She underwent the operation at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and today told of her pride in helping her brother’s fight.
Lacey, a pupil at South Shore Academy, said: “I was proper upset when I found out my little brother had cancer.
“The doctor took a DNA swab from my mouth to check whether I’d be a good match for Kristopher and two weeks later, we heard I was. I felt pleased, but nervous.
“I felt drowsy, sore and could hardly walk the day after my operation, but I knew it was all worth it to help Kristopher.
“Now he’s doing well and back to playing Minecraft with me on the X-Box.”
As reported in The Gazette in May, Kristopher’s mum Linda and dad Chris suspected something might be wrong in 2013, when he lost weight and started getting tired.
He also had a lot of bruises, including one which did not go away.
After Linda took him to the GP, he was sent to Blackpool Victoria Hospital for another blood test – where medics told Linda they suspected her little boy had acute myeloid leukaemia. Kristopher was transferred to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital that night and after a third blood test, was taken straight to theatre, to have a line put in for chemotherapy.
He had to undergo four months of intensive chemotherapy and in October 2013, the family were pleased to hear he had gone into remission.
But in June this year – the anniversary of his first diagnosis – a routine test showed the cancer had returned.
Doctors decided the only way forward was a bone marrow transplant, using Lacey as a donor.
Linda, of Boscombe Road, said: “Lacey didn’t hesitate when she heard she had a match with Kristopher’s bone marrow. She had 15 parts of bone marrow taken from her back and hips in theatre and was a bit sore for a couple of days afterwards – but she knew it was worth it, because she was helping her brother. We are so proud of both of them.”
Kristopher will recover at home in semi-isolation until March next year, and continues to have regular check-ups and chemo at home.
Figures from The Anthony Nolan Trust show two thirds of UK patients who need a transplant cannot find a matching donor within their own family.
A spokesman for The Anthony Nolan Trust said Lacey was a fantastic example and she hoped other young people might be inspired to sign up to its bone marrow register to donate and save lives. Last year, Anthony Nolan searched for donors for more than 300 children, who could not find a match within their own family.
She said it was not uncommon to see a young donor donate to a sibling, where a match could be found. There is a 25 to 30 per cent chance of having the same tissue type as sibling.
And Kristopher’s bravery throughout his treatment has been recognised by charity Cancer Research UK – with a Little Star Award, acknowledging the unique challenges faced by youngsters who encounter cancer.
Linda added: “He’s a true star and really deserves to be recognised for everything he has been through.
“Once he used to have his line in to give him the chemotherapy, he’d be running up and down the ward. We think his ‘get up and go’ has actually aided his recovery.”
Kristopher, who loves playing on the X-Box and i-Pad, received a trophy, £50 TK Maxx gift card and certificate signed by celebrities.
lCancer Research is calling on Fylde Coast residents to nominate Little Stars – under 18s who have had cancer or been treated for the disease in the last five years. Visit www.cruk.org/littlestar