Easton child plays part in medical breakthrough

A BRAVE decision by a Huntingdonshire family to allow their baby to have a pioneering treatment looks likely to help save the lives of future generations of sick children. Jamie Reece, now five, from Easton, needed a bone marrow transplant as a baby. But

A BRAVE decision by a Huntingdonshire family to allow their baby to have a pioneering treatment looks likely to help save the lives of future generations of sick children.

Jamie Reece, now five, from Easton, needed a bone marrow transplant as a baby.

But instead of having conventional chemotherapy treatment before the transplant, Jamie became only the third child in Britain to have a new treatment using antibodies - these are usually found in the blood and are used to tackle bacteria and viruses.

Today Jamie is a lively schoolboy. The success of his treatment - and 13 other patients - was highlighted in a study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, last week,


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The treatment, which avoids the side effects of chemotherapy such as hair loss, sickness and organ damage, will be used on other children who would not survive chemotherapy.

The effectiveness of the antibody treatment has now been proved but five years ago, it was a trial.

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At seven-months-old Jamie was not expected to live and his parents, Rebecca and Paul, felt they had no other choice but to take the gamble, spending six months with Jamie at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London.

Problems started when Jamie was just six-weeks-old. In 2004 he was taken to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon with a series of lung infections, which puzzled doctors because the condition could not be cured with the usual antibiotics.

Eventually, when he was four-months-old and on the life support machine, Jamie was diagnosed as having no immune system and need a bone marrow transplant.

His mother Rebecca said: "We were totally shocked. We had no idea that he was that seriously ill, having pneumonia was bad enough. We were absolutely devastated."

But his parents were advised that he would not survive the chemotherapy needed for the operation because it could be too toxic for his lungs.

However, at Great Ormond Street, Dr Persis Amrolia was leading research giving the patient antibodies that target just the immune system and the bone marrow cells.

This allowed a seven-month-old Jamie to have the transplant. His successful treatment was seen as a success for the new method.

For the next two years, Jamie and Rebecca were housebound while his new immune system was building up.

"He was on 12 different drugs twice a day. But we had fantastic support, a local charity supplied a woman who would come round and stay with him so I could go out."

Jamie still has to go for checks at Great Ormond Street every three months.

Rebecca said: "He asks me whether he was very poorly. I tell him you were very poorly but you are a very special little boy and a very strong little boy to have got through it."

She added: "I want to thank Hinchingbrooke and Addenbrooke's and Great Ormond Street, we owe his life to them. I also would like to say how important blood donors are. Jamie had dozens of transfusions. The person who gave Jamie his bone marrow was a 24-year-old male, that is all we know about him but we will be grateful to him for all our lives.

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