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Merseyside leukaemia fight boy's family speak of loss

Ben Shirley
Image caption Ben's plight encouraged donors to come forward

A leukaemia sufferer, whose appeal for a donor sparked 500 people registering at a Merseyside clinic, has died - one month after a match was found.

Ben Shirley, nine, from Knowsley, died at the end of July, despite his body reacting well to new bone marrow.

He caught a fungal infection which his immune system could not fight.

His grandmother, Norma, said the family have only just been able to speak about his death now. "He touched so many lives," she said.

An appeal, organised by his family in April, saw hundreds of people sign up to the donor register at a clinic in Merseyside to see if they were a match.

The family was given hope when a number of matches were found and Ben had a successful transplant operation at the end of June.

"He was making such a good recovery," Mrs Shirley said.

"We all thought he was out of the woods, several weeks after his treatment he was looking so well and the new bone marrow was working.

"Then out of the blue he caught this fungal infection in his lungs and his immune system could not cope."

Ben's funeral was held at St Chad's in Kirkby. The congregation wore purple, Ben's favourite colour, following a request from the family.

His grandmother could not stress enough the importance of people signing up to the donor register.

Tragic news

"The 20-year-old man who gave Ben bone marrow gave my grandson a fighting chance of survival.

"Donating does save lives, if it had not been for the fungal infection then it could have saved Ben's too.

"But Ben touched so many lives, he brought an awful lot of people together that wouldn't normally be together - he was such a wonderful boy."

Karen Bonnell, regional donor recruitment manager from the Anthony Nolan Cancer Charity said: "It's such tragic news to hear about Ben's death and my heart goes out to his family.

"But through his campaign to recruit more people to Anthony Nolan's register, Ben will have saved many more lives."

The charity said there were at least 16,000 people across the world looking for a vital donor match at any one time.

Potential donors have to be aged between 18 and 40 to register with the trust.

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