Highlands & Islands

Worldwide search for Fort William girl's stem cell donor

Chloe and sisters Image copyright Chloe Purvis family
Image caption Chloe, front right, with her sisters Isla, Charlotte and Elsie

A worldwide search has been made to find potential stem cell donors for a Scots girl diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer.

Chloe Purvis, from Fort William, has myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).

The average for someone to be diagnosed with MDS is 75 years old, making the nine-year-old a rare childhood case.

Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan has found two potential matches for Chloe, who has been receiving treatment at Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The first signs of Chloe's cancer emerged in November when her parents, Sarah and Lea, noticed that their daughter was out of breath and feeling more tired than usual.

Sarah said: "Chloe has always been very active, but she mentioned that she couldn't keep up with her friends in the playground.

"Originally her GP didn't seem too concerned and thought she might be anaemic, as she has been anaemic in the past."

'Huge shock'

After a blood test, Sarah received a phone call from their GP asking her to take Chloe to Fort William's Belford Hospital for a repeat blood test.

Chloe's blood count was so low, they thought her original results might be a mistake.

But the repeat test produced the same results and Chloe was immediately taken in an ambulance to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

Sarah said: "The doctors didn't give too much away at first and generally Chloe felt well in herself.

"However, the next day we were sent to Aberdeen where we were told that they thought she might have leukaemia."

Image copyright Chloe Purvis family

Medical staff at the hospital in Aberdeen carried out a number of tests and a week later results confirmed that Chloe had MDS.

Sarah said: "It was so overwhelming, a huge shock. You don't ever expect to be told that your child has cancer, you don't ever want to be told that.

"But Chloe's been so amazing through it all, she's never been scared or upset. When she was told that her hair would fall out, she just said, 'it's fine it will grow back'."

Chloe's sisters Isla, four, and two-year-old twins Charlotte and Elsie have been tested to see if they could be suitable to donate their stem cells to Chloe but none of them are a match.

The potential donors indentified in the worldwide search are to be further tested to confirm whether they are the best possible match.

'It's heartbreaking'

The community in Fort William has also been supporting Chloe.

Players at Fort William Football Club, which plays in the Highland League, have signed up to the Anthony Nolan register.

Sarah said: "I think signing up to the register is something that could catch on with other teams and hopefully football teams, shinty teams, hockey teams and other athletes from around the country will follow suit."

Amy Bartlett, Anthony Nolan regional development manager for Scotland, said: "While it's heartbreaking to hear that Chloe will need to have a transplant, it's great to hear that potential matches have been found."

She added: "We're particularly calling on young men aged 16-30 to consider joining the Anthony Nolan register as young men provide 50% of all stem cell donations but make up just 18% of our register."

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