‘Our prayers have been answered’: Appeal for life-saving Scots-Italian donor finds perfect match

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A father-of-three from Australia who launched an appeal for a life-saving bone marrow transplant within the Scots-Italian community has found a donor.

Gennaro Rapinese, whose father Nick is Italian, can trace his great-grandparents on his mother’s side back to Scotland, with one of them from Dalkeith in Midlothian.

Gennaro Rapinese with his daughters Mia, seven, and Stella, six. Picture: Contributed

Gennaro Rapinese with his daughters Mia, seven, and Stella, six. Picture: Contributed

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The 39-year-old who has a rare form of leukaemia was given the good news that a “perfect match” donor has been found and is now preparing to undergo a transplant operation next week.

Writing on the Facebook page G’s Army Mr Rapinese and his wife Joanne said that “our prayers have certainly been answered”.

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Since The Scotsman broke the story last month, around 80 Scots-Italians have been in touch on the G’s Army ­Facebook page offering to help Mr Rapinese, who was seeking to trace a donor with a ­similar racial and ethnic ­heritage, as bone marrow is based on genetics, not simply on blood type.

He has been “overwhelmed” by the response from Scotland but it is not known yet if the donor is a Scots-Italian as no details have been released.

Mr Rapinese, who lives in the Australian city of Perth, was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) when a routine blood test revealed leukaemic blasts in his blood cells.

He underwent months of gruelling chemotherapy and went into remission at the start of 2016, only for the cancer to return in February this year.

Mrs Rapinese gave birth to Nicolas, aged two, when her husband was in remission and the couple also have two daughters Mia, aged seven and six-year-old Stella.

She said: “This person is our saviour.

“They are giving us the greatest of all gifts – gifting our family with the opportunity of a second chance at life. We could not be more thankful or more grateful.

“I really don’t think they will ever truly understand just how much this means to us.”

Mrs Rapinese said the plan is for her husband to have intensive chemotherapy then he will undergo the bone ­marrow transplant some time next week.

She added: “He is expected to be in hospital for about four to six weeks and then a six-month-long recovery at home. We are so anxious, nervous and scared as to what will come, but at the same time so relieved, hopeful and fortunate that we have this opportunity.

“Even though our goal of finding Gennaro a match has been achieved, our vision and aim is still as strong as ever.

“If all people knew just how easy it was, that a simple blood donation is all that it takes and the positive impact they could make, we would definitely have much more than a minuscule 1 per cent of our population on the bone marrow registry.”

In 2015, around 3,100 people were diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in the UK.