AN EIGHT-year-old girl battling with deadly leukaemia has been transplanted with stem cells from the umbilical cord of an American child in a pioneering procedure.
The parents of Aillidh Kinnaird, from the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll, now face an agonising wait to see if the stem cells will cure her condition.
The stem cells, from an anonymous donor in America, were transplanted earlier this month in a procedure lasting an hour.
Just 25 millilitres of cells could hold the key to curing her of Acute Myloid Leukaemia, a rare and dangerous version of the disease.
She faced a race against time after she was diagnosed in November last year, and her family launched a desperate search for a bone marrow donor after no compatible matches were found.
The transplant is the first of it’s kind in Scotland where the recipient’s identity has been known.
Last year only two patients had similar transplants in Scotland.
Aillidh’s family say they are glad they can “live in a world where miracles happen.”
The umbilical cord from the donor mother was frozen before the stem cells were harvested in a laboratory.
While the Kinnairds do not know who the donor was, they can contact them through blood cancer charity the Anthony Nolan Trust anonymously after a year.
Aillidh’s father Andrew, 34, said: “After a year you can contact the donor. We’re thinking of sending them cards.”
Aillidh has to stay in the strict isolation ward at Yorkhill hospital in Glasgow since the transplant.
The risk of infection means only her parents and medics can visit her in the ward.
The transplant has left her immune system very low, and she is suffering from pains in her gut.
When Aillidh’s sister and brother, Roisin, 6, and Struan, 3, went to visit her they had to see her from behind a window.
Aillidh’s mother Leigh, 40, is staying by her side constantly as she is treated.
Posting on a Facebook page set up to support Aillidh’s search for a donor, Aillidh’s mother said: “Tomorrow is Aillidh’s last day with a bone marrow that produces acute myeloid leukaemia.
“A big day for her, Melphalan and the ciclosporin [chemotherapy and transplant drugs] begins.
“But God willing, all will be successful and Aillidh, though the unselfishness of another mother who chose to donate her son’s cord blood, will go on to live a full, long life without leukaemia.
“Forever more, thanks to this other person’s altruism and those who have worked to save her life, our family will live in a world that seeks to find the best in everything, that strives to see the good before the bad, in a world where miracles happen.”
Andrew said even if the transplant works it will be months before Aillidh can come home.
He said: “The doctors are looking at her blood tests every day.
“It will be a gradual process. It’s probably going to be a few months before she can come out.”
He added: “Aillidh is starting to get a bit weaker, but that’s all part of the process. It’s a sign the chemotherapy is working.”
The umbilical cord blood was sourced through the register of blood cancer charity the Anthony Nolan Trust.
The charity’s cord blood expert Guy Pearce said umbilical cord blood transplants had only started significantly in the UK since 2003.
Last year there were just two patients in Scotland who received stem cells from umbilical cords.
He said: “The survival rates for children are really quite good but it depends on so many variable factors.”
Finding a donor for Aillidh was difficult because of her unusual genetic makeup.
The family appealed for help from around the world by asking people to sign up to the register of donors.
She was first diagnosed in November last year, and searches for suitable tissue were initially fruitless.