Belfast Telegraph

Little Charlie urgently needs a bone marrow transplant ... can you spare fifteen minutes to help?

By Claire Williamson

Can you spare 15 minutes to help save a life?

This Saturday an urgent donation drive is being hosted for brave three-year-old Charlie Craig.

Charlie has been battling myeloid leukaemia since January 2013 – an aggressive disease especially rare in children, which requires specialist treatment.

The little boy from Lisburn was declared in remission after six months of intensive treatment at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

But following routine blood tests at the beginning of this year his family were given the devastating news his disease had returned.

Now he requires immediate intensive chemotherapy and a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

To help the family with their search for a match, the Craig family are holding donation drives in Cookstown and Belfast this weekend for people to come forward for immediate testing to find out if they could be a life-saving match.

In partnership with bone marrow charities Delete Blood Cancer and Anthony Nolan, they have urged the public to help them.

Since his mum Cliodhna's first appeal, it has made a huge impact in Northern Ireland and further afield.

More than 200 people in Northern Ireland signed up online to the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register between Thursday and Monday, February 20 and 24, compared to just seven in the same period last year.

Anthony Nolan's website also had 1,000 visits from Northern Ireland in the same period, compared to 169 last year, which is an astonishing 491% increase.

Charlie's parents, Fintan and Cliodhna Craig, have said they are "overwhelmed" by the support.

"It has been heartbreaking to read the newspaper headlines that my son needs someone to come forward to help save his life," the couple said in a statement.

"Charlie (right) is almost finished his second, planned, round of chemotherapy and although we have no control over anything, we had hoped to be heading for Bristol in April with a suitable donor identified."

"The longer it takes to find a match, the greater the risk of the disease coming back and Charlie needing to undergo more chemotherapy.

This is something we pray, and believe, will not happen.

"However, we remain very positive and trusting that a match will be found; the alternative does not bear thinking about.

"Time is moving on and as Charlie's parents, we are increasingly concerned. We want to appeal to those eligible, to register as a bone marrow donor now – either online or by attending one of the registration events."

Courageous Charlie has also drawn support from a host of famous faces, including his uncle, BBC Apprentice star Jim Eastwood.

Among others joining him is Tim McGarry, Pete Snodden, Tommy Bowe, Jackie Fullerton and Colin Shields.

The donation drives are this Saturday, from 10am-4pm in the Whitla Hall, Methodist College Belfast and Holy Trinity High School, Cookstown.

For more information search for Charlie Craig's Bone Marrow Donate Now Campaign Group on Facebook.

The donation drives are this Saturday, March 22, from 10am–4pm in the Whitla Hall, Methodist College Belfast and Holy Trinity High School, Cookstown.

If you are 16 to 30, you can register online at www.anthonynolan.org

If you are 18 to 55, you can register online at www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk

In the Republic of Ireland, visit www.giveblood.ie

It couldn't be easier – simply give a saliva sample.

Registration will mean that you are listed on a global database so that the team in Bristol (who will carry out Charlie's transplant) can search for a suitable match for Charlie and others like him.

If you are a suitable match your bone marrow sample can, in the majority of cases, be taken via a process similar to giving blood or in some instances you may need to undergo general anaesthetic for a procedure for the bone marrow to be taken from the pelvis.

For more information search for Charlie Craig's Bone Marrow Donate Now Campaign Group on Facebook.

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