A SIX-YEAR-OLD boy says he feels like a “superhero” after potentially saving his brother’s life by donating bone marrow.
Rufus Taylor, from North Leigh, near Witney, had the surgery to help five-year-old Herbie, who has a very rare life-threatening condition that means he has a dangerously low immune system.
It is hoped the transplant will stop mild infections like common colds escalating into deadly diseases.
Rufus,who returned to school within three days of donating the marrow, said: “I wanted to stop my brother being sick so I gave him my immune system.
“I was a bit scared but I was quite brave and now I feel like a superhero.”
Herbie, whose head was shaved after undergoing chemotherapy treatment before the operation, said: “I felt really happy that Rufus did that for me. I was a bit worried because I remember when I first had an operation I was sick so I was worried that he might be sick as well.”
Doctors diagnosed Herbie with NEMO syndrome – which affects the body’s ability to fight bacteria – when he was two after he suffered from bacterial meningitis and the lung infection empyema.
Last November he caught a mycobacterial infection from his sister Lily, 11, who was diagnosed with a similar condition to Herbie a year ago. Herbie spent most of the Christmas period in Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital before he was transferred to the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London.
The family agreed he should have a bone marrow transplant to strengthen his immune system with more white blood cells. It involves using a needle to extract bone marrow from the healthier patient’s spine and injecting it into the deficient patient. Rufus must now take iron supplements for three months.
The boys’ mum Emily Taylor, 46, said: “We were incredibly lucky to find that Rufus was an exact match.
“Most people have to wait for months or years and may never find a match but we found out we had one sitting under our own roof. Rufus was so scared but he wanted to make his brother better – we were so proud.”
Herbie had the operation, which was successful, on Friday, May 16, and will stay in hospital for another two weeks.
When he returns home he will stay mainly indoors for four months and can’t go back to school until January.
Mrs Taylor has taken time out from her job as a teacher at Witney Community Primary School to stay by Herbie’s bedside while her husband Dan, 40, who runs his own home-based coal supplier business, looks after their other children at home.
The children all attend North Leigh Primary School, which organised a superhero day to raise money for GOSH and held a Skype chat between pupils and Herbie from his hospital bed.
Lily, who has a twin sister called Kitty, may also need a bone marrow transplant in the future and is currently look for a donor with a 100 per cent match.
Mrs Taylor said: “We’ve been through a difficult few years with the children, especially over the last 12 months having Herbie and Lily ill over the same time. But we’ve got the most amazing family and friends. Without the transplant it would have meant a life of long hospital stays and serious illnesses.”
Primary Immunodeficiency UK, a charity that supports families affected by immunodeficiencies, estimates only five children in the UK are diagnosed with the condition each year and there are about 5,000 people in the country living with it.
It is caused by mutations in the NEMO gene and affects children in different ways.
Infections, caused by common bacteria, can be found anywhere in the body and affect the lungs, skin, central nervous system, liver, abdomen, urinary tract, bones and gastrointestinal tract.
BE A DONOR
A bone marrow transplant replaces damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells, according to the NHS.
If a patient doesn’t have enough red blood cells their body is starved of oxygen and their organs could be damaged, while a lack of white blood cells increases the risk of a serious infection. Doctors can use a special needle to remove the blood cells and inject them into the deficient patient.
To register as a bone marrow donor, visit nhsbt.nhs.uk/bonemarrow or call 0300 123 23 23.