Appeal to Jewish community for stem cell donor to save grandmother’s life

The family of a “bubbly” and “loving” grandmother say the answer to their desperate search for a stem cell donor to save her life probably lies in the Jewish community.

Hilary Levinson, 62, from Leeds, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in September last year and has been told by doctors that she urgently requires new stem cells from a stranger with a matching tissue type, according to the charity Anthony Nolan.

Mrs Levinson’s Jewish heritage means her donor will most likely be found within that community but her family has appealed to anyone who can to help to come forward.

The charity has urged people from the Jewish community to sign up to its register which it uses to match potential stem cell donors to blood cancer and blood disorder patients in need of transplants.

Mrs Levinson, (pictured) who recently became a grandmother for the first time, was told she had AML after a routine blood test showed she had a lower than normal white blood cell count.

After several rounds of chemotherapy, she was told a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor, which will replace her faulty immune system with a healthy new one, would be her best chance of a cure.

Her son Adam describes her as “bubbly”, “loving” and “always caring of others”.

He said: “She thought the chemotherapy was going in the right direction, so to be told the chemo wasn’t working was quite hard.

“But she’s had her first grandchild a few weeks ago which has made her happy, although she wishes she could spend more time with him.

“The Jewish community is such a close community – and I hope that people from all ethnic backgrounds, including Jewish people, will sign up to the register to help people like my mum.”

Mr Levinson said: “I hadn’t heard of Anthony Nolan or stem cell transplantation before my mum was diagnosed, so I realise how important it is to raise awareness.

“We are hopeful that we find that one person who will save mum’s life. That person could be anyone, from any background. Anyone who signs up could help save the life of someone like my mum.”

Anthony Nolan says donors from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME), which include people with Jewish heritage, make up just 16% of the register.

The charity said BAME patients have only a 20.5% chance of finding the best possible donor match, compared to 69% for white northern Europeans.

Rebecca Pritchard, head of register development at Anthony Nolan, said: “We’ve seen in the past that the Jewish community has been incredibly supportive of our work and the need for more donors on the stem cell register.

“It’s time to rally once more to get the message out loud and clear, especially to people with Jewish backgrounds, so that we can find a match for people like Hilary.”

The charity said anyone aged between 16 and 30 who is in good health can join its register.

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Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Nolan / PA Wire.