Baby offers lifeline to cancer-stricken sister

Agatha with newborn sister Meredith, whose life-saving blood will be stored for 25 years
Agatha with newborn sister Meredith, whose life-saving blood will be stored for 25 years
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A FOUR-year-old girl fighting cancer has been handed a potential lifeline after her baby sister beat odds of 25-1 to be a match for stem cell treatment.

The family of Agatha King were overjoyed to discover that blood cells taken from newborn baby Meredith’s umbilical cord were an exact match for her older sibling.

It means that Agatha has more treatment options in the future if her cancer does not go into remission or she has a recurrence.

Agatha’s mother Karen King described her new baby daughter as a “miracle” who has put them on “a high at the top of a roller-coaster”.

Agatha was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in February this year and has been receiving treatment at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary and Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

Her mother Karen was pregnant when her daughter was diagnosed. She was told about the option to collect the cord blood from her newborn daughter when she was 30 weeks pregnant.

“Once the idea had been mentioned we decided it was an idea we wanted to pursue. We had no support in doing this and it was a tough process,” Karen said.

After being turned down for funding by the NHS, the family were thrilled when childhood cancer charity Tayside Children with Cancer and Leukaemia (TCCL) offered to cover the costs.

Karen, 39, who lives in Cupar, Fife, said: “We managed to get home from hospital after a six week stay and had been home for about 10 days before I went into labour.

“We phoned the phlebotomist who came to the house and collected the cord blood. We also managed to collect a bit extra which we were able to courier to Glasgow to be tested to see if it was a match.

“The next two weeks passed in the usual new baby blur. Then we received a call from our consultant in Edinburgh to tell us Meredith was a match to Agatha. They tested eight markers and each one came back as a complete match. I had to pass the phone to my husband as I was crying so much.

“Our beautiful miracle baby had been working hard to help her big sister and we never even knew.”

Ms King said that knowing Meredith was a match for Agatha had been a huge relief for the family.

She said: “Whilst we hope beyond hope that we never need to use it, we know that there is no certainty with leukaemia and it is nice to know that should we need it Agatha would be able to use it. It also means that for the future we know Meredith is a match, and that’s amazing and terrifying at the same time.

“It’s nice to know that if we needed it we wouldn’t have to put Meredith through a painful op to test for compatibility and also to extract bone marrow.

“It’s tough enough to see one child being ill let alone having to put a healthy child through a painful op and worrying about their recovery and two children. This would also help to prevent that. We also have it stored for 25 years so should either girl need it it is there for them. We can’t thank TCCL and the future biobank enough for making this possible.”

Ms King said the arrival of her newborn daughter had also been a boost for Agatha, who has had to endure harsh treatments and fight infections over the past five months.

“Agatha is loving having a new baby sister and loves to help with her care and show her off when we’re out and about,” she said.

“Despite the stress of the last few months our new little girl has put us all on a high at the top of the roller-coaster. Well, at least for now.”

The family’s charity fundraising page is: