12 March 2020
DKMS recently held a donor patient meeting in London where little Alfie Common, 4 and his mother Lorna, met the woman who saved his life for the first time. Christin Bouvier, a DKMS donor from Germany, travelled over 600 miles to meet Alfie after donating her bone marrow four years ago.
Alfie from Nottingham met his ‘lifesaver’ Christin, 34 from Schwerin. Alfie was diagnosed in February 2016 with infant acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Lorna explains, “It was my third visit to the GP’s as I was very worried about Alfie’s cold and cough that he had since Christmas. The locum GP told us to go to A&E for further tests as he also was a little concerned. We got to the local hospital in the morning and by early evening, we had the diagnosis. I was heartbroken, our world completely fell apart. Leukaemia hadn’t even crossed my mind – I was shell shocked that my innocent baby had cancer. “
“I felt helpless”
“In fact, it was very rare for a baby to develop ALL and because of this, treatment was going to be very difficult. The plan was to treat Alfie with chemotherapy. Devastatingly, the first round of chemo failed and at this point, we were told that Alfie’s only chance of survival would be a bone marrow transplant. Worse was to follow, his second course also failed and on the same day, we were told that Alfie’s brother, Billy wasn’t a blood stem cell match for him either. The fear of losing Alfie was overwhelming, I felt helpless but I had to carry on for his sake.”
During the third round of chemo, a match for Alfie had been identified. Because of Alfie’s age, and the fact that the chemotherapy was failing, there was no medical protocol on how a baby of his age should be treated. Alfie’s consultant and two professors had been called in to advise after the third round of chemotherapy failed, and it was decided that Alfie would be put on a trial immunotherapy drug. Against all the odds, because of the drug, the cancer was being held back so the transplant could take place.
Christin, a school teacher, had been on the blood stem cell registry for a number of years before she received a letter to say that she could be a match in 2016. Following a number of tests, it was confirmed that she was a match for Alfie. She donated her bone marrow as it would have given Alfie a better chance of survival.
Nearly three years after his transplant, Alfie is back to good health and finally met his ‘genetic twin’, Christin at a special event arranged by DKMS.
For those with a blood cancer or a rare blood disorder diagnosis, a blood stem cell donation from a genetically similar person can be the only option for survival. Sadly, only 2% of the UK population are registered as blood stem cell donors,[i] so the chances of those in need finding a match are extremely slim with over 17,000 different blood tissue types.
DKMS is dedicated to the fight against blood cancer through recruiting stem cell donor; creating awareness of blood disorders and raising funds to match donor registrations costs.
Mum Lorna, said: “Meeting Christin was probably one of the most important moment of my life and she is everything that I thought she’d be. It was so surreal to finally meet her after being in touch with her once in a while.. I am so grateful to her, she is the sole reason that Alfie is still here.”
'We, as Alfie's family, are eternally grateful for the amazing work DKMS do - relentlessly striving to find a match for everyone who has the devastating news of needing a stem cell or bone marrow transplant as their only hope of survival'.
'Without DKMS, I would have undoubtedly lost my little boy, a thought which breaks my heart completely, but because of DKMS, I am getting to watch by son grow up to be the most wonderful, funny, handsome boy, living a happy and healthy life - there is not greater gift - Thank you so much.'
“Stand out experience of my life”
Christin added: “Meeting Alfie and his family will be one of the stand out experiences of my life. To see him looking so well and healthy is all the thanks I need.”
You too can become a lifesaver like Christin. If you’re 17 – 55 and in general good health, please request a home swab kit here to register as a potential lifesaver. You simply swab the inside of your cheeks and send everything back to us to join the Registry.