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Woman pleads for stem cell donor to come forward and save husband’s life

Tony Ferreira, 40, from Jersey, suffers from a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Sezary syndrome.

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Tony Ferreira, 40, from Jersey, who suffers from a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Sezary syndrome, where white blood cells become cancerous and aggressively attack the skin, with his wife Osvalda (Family handout/PA)

Tony Ferreira, 40, from Jersey, who suffers from a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Sezary syndrome, where white blood cells become cancerous and aggressively attack the skin, with his wife Osvalda (Family handout/PA)

Tony Ferreira, 40, from Jersey, who suffers from a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Sezary syndrome, where white blood cells become cancerous and aggressively attack the skin, with his wife Osvalda (Family handout/PA)

A woman who has had to leave her care home job in case she infects her sick husband with Covid-19 is pleading for a stem cell donor to come forward and save his life.

Father-of-one Tony Ferreira, 40, from Jersey,  suffers from a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Sezary syndrome, where white blood cells become cancerous and aggressively attack the skin.

Mr Ferreira, originally from Madeira, was diagnosed in 2017 but first noticed symptoms in 2012, when he suffered a small skin rash on his lower back which did not go away.

The rash developed and his hands and feet would split open. Mr Ferreira then noticed lumps in his groin and under his arms.

About 90% of Mr Ferreira’s body is now affected by the rare cancer, and his best chance of survival is blood stem cell donation.

The charity DKMS is co-ordinating the worldwide search for a donor, but Mr Ferreira’s Portuguese heritage is making it much more difficult for him to find a match.

We pray that a stranger will help us to continue our lives together for many years to comeOsvalda Ferreira

Mr Ferreira’s parents and four siblings have been checked as a potential match, but none are suitable.

In March, Mr Ferreira’s doctors decided to treat him with a new anti-cancer chemotherapy drug (mogamulizumab) but the trial was then delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

His wife Osvalda, who worked as a housekeeper for a care home in Jersey, had been keeping the family afloat financially, but was then advised to take temporary leave due to the risk she might contract Covid-19 and pass it on to her husband.

Mrs Ferreira said: “Tony’s condition is bad enough, but for thousands of patients living with cancer in the UK, Covid-19 has delayed many treatments.

“We’re not sure yet when we can begin travelling to London for treatment or what the new normal will look like.

“But we pray that a stranger will help us to continue our lives together for many years to come.

“I long to hold Tony’s hands again, without his protective gloves on.

“Tony has been wearing his blue plastic gloves so long now that I’ve almost forgotten how his hands feel without them.

“He has such strong hands and holding them would reassure me that everything is going to be all right.”

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Tony Ferreira suffers from a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Sezary syndrome, where white blood cells become cancerous and aggressively attack the skin (Family handout/PA)

Tony Ferreira suffers from a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Sezary syndrome, where white blood cells become cancerous and aggressively attack the skin (Family handout/PA)

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Tony Ferreira suffers from a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Sezary syndrome, where white blood cells become cancerous and aggressively attack the skin (Family handout/PA)

Jonathan Pearce, chief executive officer at DKMS UK, said the charity had seen a 50% drop in the number of people coming forward to be donors due to coronavirus.

He added: “We are hugely concerned about the impact Covid-19 is having on those who rely on a blood stem cell donor.

“While many stem cell transplants are still going ahead, the logistics around supporting blood stem cell donors to travel to hospital, and then arranging the transport of the stem cells to the transplant centre, have become much more challenging and complex.

“There are also transplants that have been delayed, but once the pandemic is over we know there will be a backlog of patients in urgent need of an unrelated blood stem cell donor.

“Sadly though, in some of those cases there’s a risk that the disease could progress further, and a transplant may no longer be possible once this is all over.”

People can register for a swab kit at www.dkms.org.uk\Tony.

PA