Sign up to save a life, as five-year-old Emma from Pitstone battles for hers

Emma and James
Emma and James

A mother has issued another desperate plea for potential bone marrow donors to come forward in a fight to save the life of her five-year-old daughter.

Rachelle Emberton, of Pitstone, says time is drastically running out to find a match for her little girl Emma Whittaker, who suffers from Fanconi Anaemia – a genetic disease that in 90 per cent of cases causes bone marrow failure.

Emma and James Whittaker, who both suffer from the rare condition Fanconi Anaemia, with their mum Rachelle Emberton. PNL-140324-163434001

Emma and James Whittaker, who both suffer from the rare condition Fanconi Anaemia, with their mum Rachelle Emberton. PNL-140324-163434001

The rare condition was brought into public consciousness with a high-profile storyline in Emmerdale, in which young Sarah Dingle almost died from the disease.

Tragically, the family discovered that Emma’s brother James, aged four, also had the potentially fatal condition when tests were carried out to see if he could be the life-saving donor for his sister.

Although, thankfully, a donor match has been found for James should he require a transplant in future, Leighton Buzzard’s Brookmead School pupil Emma is already desperately in need of the procedure and still without a suitable donor.

Emma, who knows she has ‘special blood’, is suffering a rapid reduction in white blood cell count, and is therefore more susceptible to infection and illness.

She will only be permitted another eight to 10 blood transfusions over the next year to 18 months, after which time the family will have no choice but to resort to a less effective haploidentical stem cell transplantation or ‘haplo’ from Rachelle herself or her partner and Emma’s dad, Malcolm.

The little girl has just left hospital after a bout of illness, and is due to celebrate her sixth birthday next month.

Rachelle said: “Emma’s platelet levels continue to drop and it has got to the point now where, if a suitable match is found, she will go to transplant straight away. We are just trying to keep everything as normal as possible for her, and hope she goes through a well spell for her birthday.”

The 41 year old, who now works part-time after giving up her Kings Langley-based business to spend more time with her children, is hosting fundraising and awareness drives to urge potential donors to come forward.

She is keen to encourage people to join Anthony Nolan, the UK’s blood cancer charity and bone marrow register, which currently has around 500,000 potential donors and helps make more than 1,000 transplants happen every year.

The mum said: “We will of course do anything we can to try and save Emma’s life, but we are hopeful we can find a full match before the haplo transplant, which is only a five per cent match and not as stable.

“Once on the register, you have around a 1 in 100 chance of being a match for someone and saving their life. If your friends or family needed a match, you would hope and expect people to join.”

Given Rachelle’s half-Iranian, half-British ethnicity, she is appealing especially to those with a Middle Eastern mixed heritage to sign up, as this is likely to provide the most suitable match for sick Emma.

She added: “Obviously we would love everyone to be on the register, because then other people can be helped.

“We were so lucky to have found James a match – we have been very blessed with that – but we remain hopeful that we can we find a match for Emma, even though it is unlikely.”