Donor teams keep Jethro alive

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Nurses Anna Thomas and Irene Dunn with Jethro Morrow and his mum Shannon Gantley.
Nurses Anna Thomas and Irene Dunn with Jethro Morrow and his mum Shannon Gantley.

Every week it takes 28 people to save 6-year-old Northland boy Jethro Morrow's life.

He suffers from a rare, life-threatening illness that destroys his red blood cells and causes acute kidney failure.

For six years he has been kept alive with a 420ml plasma infusion every Thursday. Each bag contains plasma from 14 donors and Jethro needs two bags.

It amounts to almost 9000 plasma donotions which have contributed to keeping him alive over the years.

"I am so grateful to the people that take the time to give plasma, and so relieved he has the most common blood type," Jethro's mum Shannon Gantley said.

"Just keep it up. It certainly makes a huge difference to our lives and many others."

When he was born, Jethro was the only person in New Zealand with the condition, now there are six living with the syndrome.

Ms Gantley, who lives in Mangawhai with her son, said she noticed something was wrong when he was 8 months old and seemed to be coming down with a bug. But he didn't bounce back like the other kids did.

"I just got to that point where I thought there must be something going on because he doesn't recover like normal children do."

She took him to Starship Hospital, they rehydrated him and were about to send him home when he vomited in the doorway. The hospital decided to run some blood tests.

"Then they picked up his kidneys had failed," she said. "He went straight into surgery to get him on dialysis.

"It was very horrifying and overwhelming."

Ms Gantley said Jethro, who is also on the autism spectrum, knows the gist of his illness and handles it really well.

"He's one of the most bubbly people I've ever come across. He has just got such enthusiasm for life. He looks forward to going to the hospital for treatment."

But she fears the day the plasma stops working as doctors have told her Jethro will build an immunity to it.

The only other treatment is a drug called Soliris which costs $500,000 a year and isn't funded here although it is funded in 40 countries including Australia.

"He definitely will not respond forever to plasma but there's no telling when he'll stop."

Ms Gantley has organised the 10,000 Hands Campaign which aims to get 10,000 Kiwis to donate $1 a week to fund Soliris for Jethro. They have raised about 10 per cent of this.

Shannon Gantley has been speaking as part of a New Zealand Blood Service campaign to get 10,000 new blood donors. So far, 1165 had signed up.

Atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome:

• Six people in NZ with the syndrome
• A disease that primarily affects kidney function
• Can occur at any age
• Causes abnormal blood clots (thrombi) to form in small blood vessels in the kidneys

- Northern Advocate

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