Shropshire

Zac Oliver: First treatment in US after fundraising

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Media captionA mystery person boosted the family's appeal with a £100,000 donation

A four-year-old boy has begun cancer treatment in the US after a fundraising campaign backed by Simon Cowell and a mystery donor who gave £100,000.

Zac Oliver, from Shropshire, has a rare strain of leukaemia and his parents successfully raised £500,000 for travel and treatment costs.

The family have been in the US where cells in Zac's blood were harvested in the first stage of his therapy.

His father Mark Garbett said the trip had "made it all real".

Zac, from Broseley, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May and is believed to be the only child in the UK with a particular strain of the disease that affects only one in 200 childhood leukaemia patients worldwide.

His family have taken him to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where doctors said its 17-week CAR T-cell therapy would give Zac a 60-to-80% chance of survival.

The fundraising received high-profile attention, prompting a £50,000 donation from X Factor boss Simon Cowell and £100,000 from a mystery donor, which got the family to their target.

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NHS England has been approached for comment on why Zac cannot be treated in the UK.

His family claimed he was not eligible because his condition does not meet criteria set by the NHS.

After travelling to the hospital on 12 November, Zac's T-cells were harvested as part of the therapy, which involves using patients' own immune cells to treat their cancer.

The four-year-old is now preparing to head back to the UK while the hospital engineers the cells.

He is due to return for the next stage of treatment in four to eight weeks.

Mr Garbett said: "This initial part has gone really well.

"It has been a bit difficult for all of us, but we have made it now and we have had so much support.

"We've come to this new city in the USA, everyone has been really friendly and helpful which has been a real bonus."

It comes as Zac's uncle, Wayne Bowen, 40, has had a tattoo of the boy in a bid to raise more awareness.

Image copyright Vic Crist
Image caption Wayne Bowen had the tattoo at New Identity tattooist in Shirley on Monday

Earlier this year, Mr Bowen, from Wolverhampton, swam a mile in a canal while pulling a boat carrying Zac and his mother in a bid to raise more money for the campaign.

He said "I had the tattoo done to try and reach more people.

"It also represents an amazing time in our lives, even though it is a terrible time, it kind of represents how everyone has come together for Zac and shows how much we all love him."

Image copyright Hannah Oliver-Willets
Image caption Zac is believed to be the only child in the UK with a rare strain of the disease

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