Anguish of Sunderland parents as they search for a bone marrow donor to save their one-year-old daughter’s life

Francesca Gray and Craig Bowser with their daughter Chloe.
Francesca Gray and Craig Bowser with their daughter Chloe.
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A LITTLE girl who underwent two blood transfusions before she was even born is today desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Chloe Gray was not expected to live for more than a few hours after she contracted a devastating blood disorder.

Copy pic of Chloe Bowser (or Gray) daughter of Francesca Gray and Craig Bowser of Powis Road, Plains Farm.

Copy pic of Chloe Bowser (or Gray) daughter of Francesca Gray and Craig Bowser of Powis Road, Plains Farm.

Mum Francesca Gray, 20, and dad Craig Bowser, 27, from Plains Farm, Sunderland, watched on helplessly as Chloe, born five weeks premature and weighing just 4lb 10oz, lay in intensive care for three weeks.

Today, Chloe, who has just celebrated her first birthday, faces a race against time to find a bone marrow donor.

The tot is suffering from Diamond Blackfan Anaemia (DBA) which affects just 600 people worldwide and is caused by a failure within the bone marrow.

DBA can leave sufferers critically weak and susceptible to disease, with even a common cold developing into a deadly chest infection.

Now, Chloe’s family faces a desperate search for a matching bone marrow donor, with their daughter unlikely to live beyond her 40s without one.

Chloe Gray wasn’t expected live more than a few hours.

After an emergency induced labour, Chloe was born unable to breathe, suffering potentially fatal jaundice and was forced to endure a full blood exchange as doctors battled to save her life.

“When I was pregnant, the doctors at Sunderland Royal did a routine 20-week scan and noticed that there was fluid in the baby’s brain, heart, stomach and lungs,” Francesca said. “There was fluid in every major organ.”

Francesca was rushed to a specialist unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where her unborn baby underwent life-saving treatment.

“They gave her a blood transfusion using a long needle, passing through me, the womb, and into a heart valve,” she said.

“She had another one at 28 weeks and they could tell straight away that she was safe for the time being.

“But they said she stood a better chance of survival if she had treatment outside the womb, so they were forced to induce the birth.

“I went through an 18-hour labour and then a Caesarean.

“She did not breathe by herself for about 10 minutes after she was born

“She also had to have a full blood exchange, which involved removing all her blood and replacing it.

“At the time it was essential, but it could have caused brain damage.”

Caused by a failure in the bone marrow that prevents the body from producing red blood cells, DBA can leave sufferers critically weak and susceptible to a range of diseases, with even a common cold developing into a deadly chest infection.

Chloe’s family will soon face a desperate search for a matching donor, with their daughter unlikely to live beyond her 40s without one.

“We have been warned that many of the problems she has now won’t go away until we find a successful bone marrow donor,” said Francesca. “She will have severe developmental problems and there is a danger that even by the age of two she won’t be able to crawl.

“And even if a donor is found, there is a danger she won’t make it through the chemotherapy, which she will have to undergo to complete her treatment.”

Though neither of her parents carry the disorder, Chloe is thought to have been passed it through a late relation, Francesca’s aunt.

“She died when she was 15, but it was only after Chloe was born that we found out about it.

“The doctors had their suspicions about what was wrong with Chloe, but couldn’t say for sure until after a few months.

“But she is the only other family member affected by it.

“It was just bad luck that she developed it.”

Francesca, who also looks after four-year-old daughter Millie, has now become a full-time carer with partner Craig, 27, who also has a son, Tye, five.

“Chloe had to undergo a transfusion after four weeks and she has had to have one every four weeks ever since,” she said.

“She goes into hospital at 10am and usually gets out at about 9pm.

“The blood has to be specially treated otherwise it will kill her and she has to undergo all sorts of tests.

“Also, because she is undergoing so many blood transfusions, she is taking in too much iron.

“It means she will have to go on a special machine to clean her blood.”

“Although she has a lot of problems, including hormone problems and a heart murmur, she is a happy, loving baby.

“At 22 weeks pregnant, I was told that I would be lucky if she lasted more that 10 hours. She has now turned one.”

“The hospital staff did an amazing job. I just can’t thank them enough.”

Twitter: @SunEchoJohnston