New mum’s heart­break

Leukaemia re­lapse may rob woman of see­ing her son grow

Weekend Herald - - Front Page - Kirsty Wynn

Just weeks af­ter giv­ing birth to her “miracle baby”, a first-time mum has re­lapsed with leukaemia and des­per­ately needs a bone mar­row donor to sur­vive.

Jo Mitchell has gone pub­lic in her search for a suit­able donor to in­crease the chance of what she has de­scribed as “find­ing a nee­dle in a haystack”.

Be­cause she is half Chi­nese and half Cau­casian, find­ing a match is dif­fi­cult — even with fam­ily searches of the 32 mil­lion peo­ple on the global reg­is­ter.

“We de­cided to share our story as we’re not the only ones find­ing it dif­fi­cult to lo­cate a donor, and while we are in des­per­ate need of one, there are many oth­ers that are too,” hus­band Tim Lo­mas said. “We want Jo to live and see our son grow . . .”

Mitchell was di­ag­nosed with acute lym­phoblas­tic leukaemia at 26 in 2013. For three years she bat­tled the blood can­cer with chemo­ther­apy, blood trans­fu­sions and steroids.

In 2016 she was cleared of the dis­ease and the cou­ple made the most of life. They mar­ried, moved house and had an ad­ven­tur­ous hon­ey­moon.

“Since Jo’s first di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment, we’ve tried our hard­est to re­ally soak up the ex­pe­ri­ences and life mile­stones that we’ve lucky enough to reach,” Lo­mas said.

They were “play­ing catch up” on all of the good things their friends were do­ing when Mitchell was hav­ing her ini­tial can­cer treat­ment. Then, this year they wel­comed baby Quinn to the fam­ily.

“We call Quinn our ‘miracle baby’ as we were told that our chances of hav­ing a baby at all were very slim due to Jo’s first di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment,” Lo­mas said.

Then came the re­lapse and med­i­cal ad­vice that find­ing a donor was es­sen­tial.

Sib­lings are usu­ally the best bet for a bone mar­row match be­cause they draw on the same ge­net­ics, but Mitchell is an only child.

Spe­cial­ists are search­ing for a match of reg­is­tered bone mar­row donors but be­cause of Mitchell’s mixed her­itage even that’s not guar­an­teed.

Lo­mas said the pair re­mained hope­ful. They had set up a web­site shar­ing Mitchell’s story and ad­vis­ing how peo­ple could reg­is­ter to be­come bone mar­row donors.

“We’ve weath­ered this storm be­fore, and we will again — although the stakes are a lot higher this time round,” Lo­mas said.

“We also don’t re­ally have any other op­tions, to be hon­est, as the doc­tors and spe­cial­ists have told us that a bone mar­row trans­plant is es­sen­tial due to the fact Jo has re­lapsed.”

Too ill to be in­ter­viewed, Mitchell told her part­ner that hav­ing Quinn helped keep her pos­i­tive.

“Quinn is Jo’s shin­ing bea­con through­out the darker times we’ve been through re­cently, and her de­ter­mi­na­tion to get through the treat­ment and raise our son is what is driv­ing her to get bet­ter,” Lo­mas said.

“I know we’ll be all right in the end, but it breaks my heart to see Jo not able to par­ent to the de­gree that she re­ally wants to.”

The fam­ily have spent most of the time since Quinn’s birth at Auck­land Hos­pi­tal nav­i­gat­ing life with a new­born on a busy hos­pi­tal ward.

“The whole ex­pe­ri­ence has been in­cred­i­bly tax­ing for us a fam­ily, but it has brought us closer,” Lo­mas said. “A weird sil­ver lin­ing of the whole thing is that we’ve been able to spend ev­ery day with our new­born son.”

Ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the New Zealand bone mar­row reg­is­ter Raewyn Fisher com­mended Mitchell for go­ing pub­lic. She said reg­is­ter­ing as a donor was as easy as giv­ing blood. The process to do­nate bone mar­row to an adult was just as easy.

Lo­mas said he would be for­ever grate­ful to any­one who reg­is­tered to help his wife or any­one need­ing a bone mar­row trans­plant.

“I don’t have enough kind words for the amaz­ing peo­ple we’re lucky enough to have in our lives, and we’ll be for­ever thank­ful for their sup­port and love. We love life, and we des­per­ately want to be there when we see Quinn dis­cover that same love.”

While we are in des­per­ate need of one, there are many oth­ers that are too. Tim Lo­mas, hus­band

Photo / Sup­plied

Tim Lo­mas and Jo Mitchell with baby Quinn. The search for a bone mar­row donor is com­pli­cated.

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