5,000 People Stand in Rain for Hours to See if Stem Cells Match for 5-Year-Old Battling Cancer

When five-year-old Oscar Saxelby-Lee was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on December 28 last year, his primary school in Worcester, England, organized an event to help him.

The boy, nicknamed Bear by his parents, suffered from T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is an aggressive type of leukemia that causes the bone marrow to release immature white blood cells. The treatment requires a stem cell transplant within three months.

His parents and the school set up a crowdfunding page in February and managed to raise about $11,300. Then, as Oscar needed the stem cell transplant, they decided to organize the donor event to find a match, and people aged 17 to 55 were able to register as a donor.

The event was run by more than 200 volunteers, and over 5,000 people lined up during the weekend to see if they were eligible to be stem cell donors for the five-year-old cancer patient.

According to Sue Bladen, the school’s business manager, people queued around the block, in the pouring rain, and nobody moaned about it.

Plus, another 1,000 people registered as potential donors online, and hundreds more turned up at the city’s university. A series of other events saw a total of over 10,000 people volunteer to get tested.

Soon afterward, the mother announced that she has the best news to share, as Oscar has finally got a stem cell match, not just one but three, which drastically increases his chances of survival, and he will be undergoing transplant. She thanked everybody who registered, supported and spread the word for her son.

Oscar was undergoing chemotherapy at Birmingham Children’s Hospital while he awaited an imminent stem cell transplant, and the doctors confirmed the chemotherapy was reducing his cancer cells.

As soon as tests showed Bear had no cancerous cells left in his bone marrow following chemotherapy, the transplant could take place.

Oscar had the transplant on 29 May, and his parents revealed that he was finally developing neutrophils -- the white blood cells that indicate a recovery in his bone marrow and immune system.

However, he couldn’t attend school until a charity was able to have him attend school from his hospital bed with the help of a robot that projects his face.

Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust has fitted Oscar with a state-of-the-art “Ozzybot”, so he was able to enjoy the lessons, and interact with his teachers and classmates at Pitmaston Primary School, who love having the “Ozzybot” in the classroom.



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