Plea for blood
THE lives of a Leongatha family were upended within the space of a month, after their three year old son was diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.
In early December, Elliot Vanderland’s parents Elissa and Ian noticed bruising on their son’s legs. They thought nothing of it as he loved to climb.
Then their normally energetic boy became lethargic, sleeping in until mid-morning, and lost his appetite. Soon, his bruising became more severe.
“We took him swimming and just took his rash vest off and realised we had bruised him. That’s when we realised something was going on,” Elissa said.
A doctor recommended an urgent blood test. Forty-five minutes later, the doctor rang Elissa and told her to rush Elliot to Monash Medical Centre in Clayton. A team of specialists was expecting them.
A bone marrow biopsy, and further blood tests and transfusions followed. An infection wiped out the platelets within Elliot’s blood, and he spent a week in the Monash centre on a drip, receiving antibiotics and further transfusions. Platelets stop bleeding by clotting blood vessel injuries.
On December 20, 12 days after first visiting their GP, the family received frightful news: Elliot had Aplastic Anaemia, a bone marrow failure syndrome in which his own immune system attacks the platelets, and white and red blood cells within his blood.
The condition is rare, found only in one to two children in Victoria a year.
His immunity is weak and he tires easily. Weekly platelet transfusions are keeping him alive.
The condition was caused by another disease, Dyskeratosis Congenita, only diagnosed last week.
The only cure for Aplastic Anaemia is a bone marrow transplant, preferably from a direct relative, but as Elliot’s parents and nine year old brother Ashton are not suitable donors, the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry is now searching around the world for an unrelated donor while he receives regular transfusions.
While unrelated donations are typically not as successful due to DNA markers not being similar, it’s a chance Elliot’s family is willing to take.
The transplant will entail chemotherapy and months in isolation, including months away from home during treatment.
The youngster has a central line stuck to his chest and the medical tubes will stay there for more than six months, allowing medication and transfusions to be administered, and blood to be taken for testing.
The Vanderlands have been overwhelmed by the support of family and friends, and the community, including Loch Primary School which Ashton attends.
“Strangers have even cooked meals for us. It just makes such a big difference when we get home,” Elissa said.
The Vanderlands are drawing optimism from their plight by using their ordeal to raise awareness of the Red Cross Blood Bank.
“At the moment Elliott is being kept alive by donations from the Blood Bank and that’s why we want more people to donate,” Elissa said.
“We’ve always understood the importance of the Blood Bank but it’s not until you sit there seeing these donations from strangers that you know they’re keeping your child alive.”
Donating blood can take as little as 45 minutes but the simple gesture saves people’s lives.
►To find out more, go to the Facebook page ‘Elliot’s Fight Against Aplastic Anaemia’ or donate to the family at www.gofundme.com/elliots-aplastic-anaemia-fight
Book to donate
THE Red Cross Blood Bank’s mobile donor centre will next visit Leongatha from February 1 to 10.
To donate, call 13 14 95 to make an appointment or visit www.donateblood.com.au for more information.
At the donor centre’s most recent visit, people gave 115 donations, saving 345 lives.
One in three Australians will need blood or a blood product in their lifetime, but only one in 30 currently donates.
FORMER St Kilda Football Club captain Nick Riewoldt has wished Leongatha’s Elliot Vanderland well in his fight for health.
Mr Riewoldt last week wrote “Hang touch little buddy” on social media, after his sister Maddie Riewoldt died in 2015 from Aplastic Anaemia, the same condition Elliot is now battling.
The Vanderland family has been in touch with Maddie’s Riewoldt’s Vision, an organisation that aims to help raise awareness of bone marrow failure syndromes and find a cure.
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