Kiwi kid faces lifesaving transplant

By Margot Taylor

Caroline Quirey has aplastic anaemia, a rare condition caused by a failure in bone marrow development. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Caroline Quirey has aplastic anaemia, a rare condition caused by a failure in bone marrow development. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Caroline Quirey looks like a normal 11-year-old but behind her smile the Dunedin school pupil is fighting a rare bone marrow disorder.

Since being diagnosed with aplastic anaemia in June, Caroline has had weekly platelet transfusions and fortnightly blood transfusions to replenish her small body with the blood cells the disorder is depriving her of.

Tomorrow she will travel to Starship children's hospital in Auckland to prepare for a stem cell transplant which her mother hopes will allow her to return to school and the netball court.

The stems cells transplanted into Caroline's bone marrow will come from an anonymous donor, known only to be a German male.

Caroline's mother, Lydia Quirey, said the donor would play a crucial role in saving her daughter's life.

"It's extraordinary, she wouldn't be here without it."

Since finding out she would receive stem cells from Germany Caroline had started learning the basics of the language. "I'll be part German", the little girl joked.

Since the diagnosis Caroline had been robbed of the ability to do things she loved, including dance, physical education and swimming because of a risk of bleeding or infection, her mother said. It was "bitter sweet" to have found a stem cell match on the international bone marrow registry.

"We had mixed feelings. We were quite excited because there was a positive chance of curing her, but we were also apprehensive because we know about the process."

Before receiving the transplant, Caroline will have her immune system destroyed by chemotherapy to give her body a better chance of accepting the foreign cells.

There was also a chance the cells would attack Caroline's fragile immunity, a complication called graft-versus-host, Lydia Quirey said.

She planned to take six months' unpaid leave from her job as a nurse to support Caroline while she had treatment and Caroline's father and older sister would visit the pair as often as they could, she said.

Since being diagnosed with aplastic anaemia in June, Caroline has had weekly platelet transfusions and fortnightly blood transfusions. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Since being diagnosed with aplastic anaemia in June, Caroline has had weekly platelet transfusions and fortnightly blood transfusions. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Caroline's battle with the disorder was "incredibly hard" for the family, but they were overwhelmed by an outpouring of support, Quirey said.

"There are so many families and children that go through things like this, you just don't expect it to happen to you."

A Givealittle page established by East Taieri School principal Jennifer Horgan to support the family was particularly overwhelming, she said.

Quirey acknowledged the "wonderful" support from Dunedin City Baptist Church and her workplace.

"These are things I never would have expected or asked for.

"You feel a bit undeserving."

Horgan said many of the school's 300 pupils and friends of Caroline's family, including in Australia, had made donations. "They are a wonderful family and Caroline is such a popular student."

About $7700 had been donated so far, she said.

Caroline said she was "really happy" her school was supporting her. She hoped to go back in time for her year six camp in November.

- Otago Daily Times

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