A Sydney man is on a desperate hunt for a donor, after contracting a debilitating blood disorder.
Gerald Barr, who lives with his wife, Michelle, in Minchinbury, in Sydney’s west, has aplastic anaemia, a rare life-threatening condition that arises when the bone marrow stops producing enough new blood cells.
The condition leaves those inflicted vulnerable to infections and uncontrolled bleeding.
According to the Leukaemia Foundation, there are less than five cases of aplastic anaemia per million people.
“I was diagnosed last year,” Gerald, a father of three and construction project manager, told Hope 103.2. “Until that time, I had led a fairly active, healthy life.”
It was in July last year that Mr Barr, 58, began getting some unexplained bruising and daily nosebleeds.
He went to his GP, who ran some blood tests. The tests showed a significant drop in his platelets (the blood cells that form clots to stop or prevent bleeding).
“The GP referred me to a haematologist for further tests and they did a bone marrow biopsy and gave me a course of steroids,” Mr Barr said. “Roughly a month later the diagnosis was confirmed as aplastic anaemia.”
The treatment for the disorder is a bone marrow transplant (blood cells are produced in the bone barrow).
Gerald’s first step was to test if his three brothers were a match for a bone marrow transplant. When he learned they were not, he undertook an immunosuppression treatment trial, which aims to “kick-start” the production of bone marrow.
“By the time this treatment started in December, I was requiring platelet transfusion twice a week and blood transfusions,” Mr Barr said.
Sadly, the trial proved unsuccessful. His doctors now expect that Mr Barr’s health will deteriorate in the short term.
“The only treatment option now is a bone marrow transplant,” Mr Barr said.
To that end, he and his wife Michelle, an aged care worker, are raising awareness of the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, administered by Australian Red Cross’s Lifeblood. They are encouraging both men and women, aged 18-35 and of all ethnicities, to join.
While many Australians donate blood, donating marrow is not as common.
For the best chance of recovery from aplastic anaemia, the patient requires fresh marrow, which is why Australians are preferred to overseas donors.
“It is a simple process that can save a life,” says Mr Barr.
“I obviously stand to benefit if I can find a match here in Australia. But there are many others like me who deserve a chance to get the treatment and go on to live productive lives.”
To join the registry, visit abmdr.org.au.
Join July’s Hopeland Blood Drive
Hope 103.2 staff are teaming up with the Hopeland community to save 150 lives through the Hopeland Blood Drive!