The life of a baby boy with a ‘one in a million’ condition is set to be saved – thanks to a transplant from his mum.
Rachel Nicholson, 27, was shattered to discover 14-month-old son Max had aplastic anaemia after bruises started to appear on his body.
The rare condition means the bone marrow and stem cells do not produce enough blood cells. It is fatal if left untreated and was a devastating blow to receptionist Rachel and partner Connor Gardner, Max’s dad.
But tests revealed Rachel was a near perfect match. And the family will get to spend Christmas together before the transplant is carried out in January.
Rachel, of Hebburn, South Tyneside, will donate using a machine to extract the cells from her blood at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital – where Mirror transplant campaigner Max Johnson, 12, received his new heart in a transplant operation in 2017.
The cells will then be transported to the city’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and given to her son.
He has to undergo a brief spell of chemotherapy first, and the family will need to isolate for months after the procedure to protect him from any possible infection.
But Rachel said: “It is phenomenal that I can donate – the chances of me being such a good match are about one percent. It really is just like giving a blood donation.
“The machine takes your blood through a cannula and separates the white and red blood cells.
“The white is stored, and assessed to ensure they have what they need.”
Max will receive his life-saving donation the next day.
He has also had tissue taken and stored for future use in case the chemo leaves him infertile.
Connor, 29, an HGV driver, added: “It is to give him the chance to have a family when he is older.
“Rachel is a near-perfect match for the bone marrow transplant, and that is very rare. This condition only affects one in a million.
“So Max is very unfortunate to have it, but also very lucky his mother has been such a good match.”
The couple met Evie Hodgson, eight, at the RVI.
She was diagnosed with Very Severe Aplastic Anaemia during the coronavirus lock-down.
Her only cure is also a blood stem cell transplant.
Dad Andy, mum Tina and Evie’s brother William, five, were all tested but were not a match.
A blood stem cell donor match was found in September, but then removed their name from the register. So the search for a life-saving donor goes on.
Connor stressed the importance of bone marrow donation, and hopes Max’s story will help raise awareness. They have been caring for their son full-time, and have set up a fundraising page under Max-in-a-million on GoFundMe.
The Mirror’s ‘Change the Law for Life’ crusade saw a new ‘opt out’ system on organ donation introduced in England in May.
Named Max and Keira’s Law in honour of Max, 12, of Winsford, Cheshire, and his heart donor Keira Ball, nine, who died after a tragic car accident near her home in Barnstaple, Devon, it means everyone is understood to be a donor when they die.