Watch as Sunderland mother makes emotional plea for kidney donor to save her six-year-old son's life
and live on Freeview channel 276
Joseph was a happy and healthy toddler until a week before his third birthday when Rebecca Archer, 28, noticed he had become very lethargic – “often falling asleep on the sofa” – and began to complain about pains in his legs.
Doctors initially though it was a possible infection and Joseph was give a course of antibiotics. However, two weeks later Joseph collapsed and was rushed to Newcastle RVI where he was diagnosed with stage 5 Wilms tumours, a type of kidney cancer which had spread to his spleen, liver, diaphragm and lungs.
Surgeons operated to remove one of his kidneys and partially remove his second which was also riddled with tumours. Brave Joseph then faced months of gruelling chemotherapy - the intensity of which doctors said he only had a “50 50 chance of surviving” - along with a further seven operations.
Against all the odds, including fighting off sepsis six times, in December 2020, Joseph and Rebecca were given the news he was cancer free.
Unfortunately for Joseph, his ordeal did not end there. What remained of his one kidney initially operated at 40 per cent function, but three months ago the family were told this had halved to just 20 per cent and Joseph’s only hope of survival is a transplant.
Rebecca said: “At the moment Joseph only has a quarter of a kidney and the only way for him to survive is for a donor to be found. Doctors at the RVI’s Renal Ward have told me his kidney will eventually completely fail - we just don’t know when.
“They’ve also said dialysis at the moment is took risky as there’s a chance of infection which Joseph would struggle to fight off.”
While the Plains Farm Academy pupil has now been placed on the transplant register, Rebecca has launched her own appeal on Facebook for people to come forward and get tested to see if a suitable match can be found.
The NHS’s website highlights that “nearly everyone has two kidneys, but can lead normal healthy lives with just one” and family and friends have already been tested, but as yet no match has been found.
Rebecca, who lives in Plains Farm, said: “Joseph suffers from a lot of stomach pains and is always tired. While I’m always conscious the cancer could return, a new kidney would allow him to be a happy and healthy little boy.
"It would mean the world to me if someone can help by coming forward to get tested. Even by sharing my Facebook message, people would be helping to save my little boy’s life.”
It was a message echoed by Joseph’s sister, Amy Archer, 10, who added: “Please come forward and get tested so my little brother can have the chance to live a normal life, like any other little boy.”
Joseph’s school, Plains Farm Academy, have also got involved in promoting the appeal on their social media, contacting the Echo, and even offering to open the school for a dedicated day to be used as a testing facility in the hope of finding a donor match.
Headteacher Lesley Cassidy said: “As a school we have gone through Joseph’s journey and want to continue to offer our support. This is a cause which is really close to our hearts.
"My big hope is obviously that Joseph gets a match but that people also don’t opt out of being organ donors which could help save other children’s lives.”
Rebecca said she has been told the ideal donor should be over 30 and, for females, those who no longer intend to have further children. Anyone who feels they can help should contact Rebecca on her Facebook page or via the school by calling (0191) 520 3109 or emailing [email protected]
Potential donors will then be put in contact with Joseph’s nurse who will arrange for that person to be tested at the “nearest possible location”.
Joseph, who doesn’t fully understand the severity of his predicament, simply added: “Please come and help me to get better.”