South Shields teenager's call for stem cell donors in thanks to life-saving charity Anthony Nolan Trust

A brave teenager who faced a battle for survival after being diagnosed with a rare blood disorder has launched a fundraising mission for the charity that helped save her life.

By Lisa Nightingale
Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 12:05 pm

Abbie Young was 16 when she was given the devastating news that her body was suffering from severe Aplastic Anaemia.

With her bone marrow failing, medics at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary Ward 3 were in a race against time to find a stem cell donor who could give her a fighting chance.

Abbie, now 18, is on the road to recovery thanks to the Anthony Nolan Trust.

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Abbie Young is fundraising for the Anthony Nolan Trust following life-saving treatment.

To say thank you for saving her life, the Harton Academy pupil is aiming to help boost the charity’s work by hosting a fundraising day at school on Friday, April 8.

Abbie, who hopes to become an Anthony Nolan youth ambassador, is aiming to encourage others to sign up as stem cell donors and help save lives.

She said: “I just feel really grateful that someone out there took the time to sign up to the stem cell register and that one choice someone made, has saved my life.

“I know some kids die waiting for a donor, so I will always be forever grateful for what my donors did and to the Anthony Nolan Trust.”

Abbie in hospital, left, and with her siblings Kate and Sam, right.

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The teenager discovered her bone marrow was failing her after her mum became concerned over the number of bruises her daughter had. Abbie was diagnosed in January 2020.

Mum Caroline, 49, said: “We went to the doctors who sent Abbie to South Tyneside Hospital for blood tests.

“Abbie was at the hospital on the Friday (January 10), then by Saturday morning we had a knock on the door and there was an ambulance outside, they had come for Abbie.

Abbie, 18, with her dog Max.

“They took us to Sunderland hospital and her dad followed up in the car, where they did more tests, they thought she had leukaemia, so we were transferred straight to the RVI.”

According to information from Great Ormond Street Hospital, severe Aplastic Anaemia only affects around 30 to 40 children in the UK each year.

After Abbie’s older siblings, brother Sam, 26, and sister Kate, 21, were found not to be matches, a donor from Germany was found with the charity’s help.

Abbie’s first transplant was in May 2020, but with the country in Covid lockdown, the stem cells had to be frozen due to restrictions.

The first transplant failed, believed in part due to the stem cells having been frozen.

The Anthony Nolan Trust stepped in and a second donor was found, but the cells were not frozen this time at the request of the hospital.

Caroline added: “It is so hard when it's your child's life is suddenly put into the hands of a stranger. You're waiting for someone you don't know to come forward and help save your child's life.”

The teenager underwent her second transplant in July 2020 and following a number of blood transfusions, the treatment started to work.

But due to complexities, she needed to have a top-up from her second donor at a later date.

Throughout Abbie’s treatment, which also included several doses of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and the top-up donation dose, she needed to stay confined in a bubble with only Caroline, dad Karl and nursing staff for company.

Abbie, of Beacon Glade, told the Gazette she felt like she’d “lost her purpose” while receiving treatment and that losing her hair felt like “the worst day of my life”.

She explained: “I was in denial about the whole thing. I knew I was bruising easily, but I didn't want to do anything about it. I was in denial about everything.

"I knew people lost their hair with treatment but I thought I'd be the one who didn't. Then I did and I was devastated.

“I just felt like I had lost my purpose. When I lost my hair, it felt like the worst day of my life, I had had also put on quite a bit of weight.”

Following her treatment and a number of blood and platelet transfusions, Abbie was finally able to ring the bell on leaving Ward 3 in August 2020; but she still needed to shield to give her body the best chance of survival.

Now, she’s studying Biology, Chemistry and Psychology at A-Level and focusing on supporting the life-saving charity with her fundraising mission.

At time of writing – and with weeks to go until her fundraising day at school – more than £1,500 has been donated to her JustGiving page.

On her page, she said: “Without you there is no cure. For someone with blood cancer, a stem cell transplant could be their last chance of survival.”

Mum Caroline added: “The hospital, the staff on Ward 3, were brilliant and the nurses were amazing. They were more like friends than medical professionals.

"At the time, you couldn't mix with anyone, so they were a good support to us as a family and to Abbie.

“Abbie's school has also been supportive. Sir Ken, who is the school's executive head teacher, would call every day and ask how she was.

“When it happened, teachers would drop off books for Abbie and they were even talking about a teacher going into a bubble, so that they could invigilate her for her GCSE exams. But the exams never happened because of Covid.

"We will be forever grateful for everyone's support.”

Kath Coulter, Assistant Director of Sixth Form at Harton Academy,said: “As a school community, we are very proud of all that Abbie has achieved.

"Due to her illness, Abbie had to delay starting Sixth Form, which means she is an academic year behind her peers.

"Not only was she determined to get stuck into three very demanding A-Levels, she also came up with the idea of raising money and becoming an Ambassador for the Anthony Nolan Charity.

"To support Abbie, we hope to raise as much money as possible on April 8.”

For information, resources or to help the Anthony Nolan Trust , visit https://www.anthonynolan.org/help-save-a-life/join-stem-cell-register

Abbie and her family would like to thank the following companies who have donated prizes to help raise funds through a raffle or have donated to her JustGiving page. They include:

Absolutely Fabulous; Crown Hair and Beauty; Village Delights; Scoop and Bean; Namaste Indian Restaurant and Prosecco Lounge; Smith’s Chippy; The People’s Theatre; South Shields Football Club; Nails by Ella Mae; Alison James; The Head Shed; Fresh ‘N’ Tasty; Inner Temple Spa; Layla’s Ice Cream; Harrison’s Jewellers; Cutz Hair Salon; Log Fire Pizza Company; Remix Hair; Hair by Jack; The Hedworth Hall; Enchanted Crafts and Mystical Makes; Bespoke Custom Cleans; Coffey By Name; Sea Change Café; Little Laughs; Lash by CK; Expressions Hair Salon; WWT Washington Wetland Centre; The Cheesecake Man; Cole Kitchen; Elite Hair and Design; Gooey Galore; Whitburn Caterers/Village Café; The Waffle Bar and Company; Tynemouth Aquarium and The Customs House.

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