One in three of us will need a blood donation in our lifetime, and yet only one in 30 donate blood. Thirteen-year-old Josh Miller’s life was quite literally saved by blood donations – and his mum Kerryn joined Hope Drive to urge more people to become donors.
In 2018, Josh was an ordinary, active child at the age of nine. One week, he became unusually unwell with “mystery symptoms”, developing a sore elbow and extreme fatigue.
Known as an active, playful child, his mum Kerryn took him to the GP and by the end of week, Josh had been diagnosed with leukaemia – the most common childhood cancer.
Josh immediately began the standard treatment pathway for leukaemia patients – steroids, followed by many rounds of chemotherapy. However, he needed a bone marrow transplant to have any chance of beating his diagnosis.
At the end of 2018, Josh received the transplant thanks to an overseas donor.
Sadly, his recovery was slower than expected, and a few months later, tests showed that Josh had relapsed – and the leukaemia had returned.
His final shot
Josh’s final option was to receive radical new treatment called CAR-T therapy, which he completed in 2020. He was only the fifth paediatric patient in Australia to undergo the treatment.
“In a nutshell, they take the T-cells out of your body, which are part of your immune system and fight infection,” Kerryn explained on Hope Drive.
“Then, they modify the T-cells and put them back in your body, and the new T-cells begin to fight the cancer.
“It’s like your own immune system fighting the leukaemia,”
Incredibly, CAR-T therapy was successful for Josh – he has been in remission for almost two years.
How blood donations saved Josh’s life
Throughout his treatment, like many cancer patients, Josh was reliant on blood donations.
Due to the leukaemia, he could no longer produce platelets, which help prevent blood clots.
“In his treatment, he had about 285 bags of platelets and 109 bags of whole blood,” Kerryn said.
“We’ve been indebted to Lifeblood.
“They were instrumental in keeping Josh going through all of that treatment.”
“We’ve been indebted to Lifeblood. They were instrumental in keeping Josh going through all of that treatment,” – Kerryn, leukaemia survivor Josh Miller’s mum
Even now, Josh undergoes monthly plasma infusions to bolster his immune system, which is not possible without regular blood donors. Kerryn urged people to consider donating if they haven’t before.
“You are saving lives,” she said.
“It’s usually oncology patients that require blood donations the most.
“We are grateful for every drop that people donate.”
Listen to Kerryn’s full interview on Hope Drive in the player above.
To be a part of the Hopeland Blood Drive, click here.