Evie gets the gift of life, thanks to donor

A little girl who has exhausted all treatment options is to be given the gift of life.

Friday, 18th January 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 19th January 2019, 5:49 pm
Evie Campbell and her sister Erin. Picture by Jane Coltman

Seven-year-old Evie Campbell was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder, Diamond-Blackfan anaemia (DBA), at just seven weeks old.

The Shilbottle youngster, who had her 53rd blood transfusion yesterday, is now set to receive a life-saving bone marrow transplant in March – thanks to a young man who signed up to the Anthony Nolan register.

Mum Rebecca, 35, said: “This is going to save Evie’s life. He is the only person out there who has got the same tissue type as Evie.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“This transplant is also going to change her life.

“Evie will always have DBA, because it cannot be cured, and she will still be under the care of St Mary’s in London.

“But she is not going to need blood transfusions, which is the biggest issue.”

Evie’s condition means that her bone marrow fails to make red blood cells which has led to her having regular blood transfusions.

But she has had so many transfusions that she now has a severe iron overload on her liver.

Since May, Evie, a pupil at Alnwick’s Swansfield Park Primary School, has had a portacath – a small chamber which sits under the skin and is connected to a vein near her heart.

Alongside that, she has an infusion pump which feeds medicine into her body 24 hours a day, six days a week, to reverse the overload of iron. But the medication cannot be used long-term.

The infusion pump means Evie hasn’t been able to take part in gymnastics, swimming, dancing or even have a bath as it cannot get wet.

Rebecca added: “Evie copes remarkably well. She really is amazing.

“When we tell her that she won’t have to have any more blood transfusions or carry her pump around she gets excited.

“She will be able to do so many things that she enjoys.”

Evie, who has a little sister Erin, three, has a year-long road of recovery ahead of her.

Next month, she will have a Hickman line fitted and then prior to the actual transplant Evie will have to endure eight days of high-intensity chemotherapy which will wipe out her bone marrow and suppress it.

After that, she will receive the cells, which are administered like a transfusion, while she is awake.

And then Evie will have to have an eight-week stay in Newcastle’s RVI while her blood counts return to an acceptable level.

Once the blood counts are at the right level she will be allowed to go home but will be in isolation at home.

Then, little by little, she will be able to go outside, visit friends and family and start to take part in everyday events.

Rebecca added: “Hopefully this time next year, Evie will be back at school full-time and able to do all the things she wants to do.

“At the moment, she has to be so careful – she carries her infusion pump with her in a bag wherever she goes.”

Evie will not be able to have visitors while she is in hospital, except her close family, which means she will be apart from her sister for two months.

But Rebecca, who works at William Hackett Lifting Products, said she is hoping that Facetime and phone calls will see the girls through.

And mum and dad Richie, a joiner with Geoff Saunders Construction, plan to split their time between Evie in hospital and home with Erin.

Rebecca and Richie are keen to continue to encourage people to donate blood and sign up to the Anthony Nolan register.

“Without blood transfusions Evie wouldn’t be here,” Rebecca said.

“And without this man signing up to the Anthony Nolan register we wouldn’t have this opportunity to save Evie’s life. I would urge anyone to donate.”

They would also like to thank everyone for their support.

“Swansfield Park Primary School have been fantastic,” she said.

“The support we have received from all of the staff, everyone, has just been brilliant.

“Our employers have also been fantastic and really supportive.

“We would also like to thank everyone for the continued support that we have received for Evie from so many people. We have loads of messages and people asking after her and it really does mean a lot to us.”

At the end of 2016, a drive was held at Swansfield Park school to encourage more people to sign the Anthony Nolan Register.

Over 150 people joined and out of them four were a tissue match for other recipients.

To find out when and where you can donate blood visit www.blood.co.uk

For more about the Anthony Nolan register and donating your stem cells to save lives like Evie’s, see www.anthonynolan.org