Wales

Aberdare family's hunt for stem cell donor to save baby

Photo of Harri with brother Logan Image copyright Family Photo
Image caption Brother Logan cannot cuddle Harri any more because of the danger of infection

A family are hunting for a stem cell donor for their seven-month-old baby who has cancer.

Harri Stickler, from Aberdare, was suddenly diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia just before Christmas and has only a 20-30% chance of survival.

Since then he has been receiving weekly chemotherapy in hospital.

His mother Bethan said: "I went to the doctor with a scratch on his eye and he came out with cancer, how can that happen?"

The blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is helping the family by trying to find a donor match on its register and appealing for more people to come forward.

The GP had suspected possible meningitis and called an ambulance to take Harri straight to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr.

He was then diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and transferred to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

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His grandmother Anne Jenson said: "I saw Harri a couple of days before he was diagnosed and he didn't seem ill at all, so the news came as such a shock, it's just awful.

"He was in hospital over Christmas so as a family we didn't celebrate at all."

The baby's chemotherapy means he has a high risk of infection so only his parents can touch him.

"This is so hard for the rest of the family as we just want to hold him," said his grandmother.

"If you could have seen him at home he was so happy, he didn't seem ill. He's still happy now but he is ill and he needs a donor."

Image copyright Family Photo
Image caption Harri is receiving weekly chemotherapy

Only about 25% of matching stem cell donors can be found within families, so the register compiled by Anthony Nolan relies on strangers.

Donating stem cells means a short outpatient procedure similar to giving blood.

But the charity said the register was particularly short of younger men between 16 and 30.

"They provide more than 50% of all stem cell donations but make up just 18% of our register," said the charity's Wales development manager Karen Archer.

Harri's mother added: "They have only given him a 20-30% chance of living until he is five. So it's really low but fingers crossed that we can do it.

"Even if joining the Anthony Nolan register doesn't help Harri, it will help someone else."

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