Tiny baby Keira needed dozens of transfusions to help her survive a rare blood disease. Now she's back home with her family, and her mum Louise can't wait for Christmas.
Louise Quigley always had a hunch there was something wrong with her baby. Prone to infections, on and off antibiotics, "She just never seemed quite right," recalls Louise. Yet the GP could find nothing wrong with the otherwise normal baby.
But last November when Keira went for her three-month inoculations, the GP found she had a sky-high temperature. This was at 3pm. By 5pm she was admitted to hospital locally for urgent tests. Anaemia was suspected, but unfortunately for Louise it wasn't that simple.
Louise and her partner Mark spent five agonising days in the Nuneaton hospital, watching as Keira deteriorated. She was then transferred to Birmingham Children's Hospital. There she was diagnosed with congenital neutropenia Kostmann's syndrome - a rare blood condition that results in an abnormally low number of white cells being produced.
By the time she arrived at the children's hospital she was in a critical condition. Due to her low white cell count, she'd contracted a bowel infection, and underwent a six hour emergency operation.
The surgeon removed 30cm of infected bowel, a huge amount for such a tiny baby. To help her recover, Keira received red cells to combat anaemia and white cells to fight the infection. She remained desperately ill for weeks, and couldn't come home for her first Christmas.
Her life hung in the balance, and every day was uncertain. "I remember one night I went down the corridor to make a cup of tea as it was quiet," recalls Louise. "By the time I returned to the ward, intensive care staff had rushed to Keira's bedside with a resuscitation trolley."
Keiras only hope of recovery was to have a stem cell transplant, which doctors hoped would allow her body to make white cells normally.
But first she needed strong chemotherapy to wipe out her own, diseased bone marrow. The treatment was aggressive and left her without any defences of her own to fight infection. Again, she needed blood products to pull through - red cells to combat anaemia, platelets to prevent bleeding and white cells to fight infection. Then, on 7th January, she received cord blood containing the vital stem cells that would start producing healthy blood cells for her.
Donated blood actually helped save Keira's life three times - first, after her bowel operation, secondly when she was being prepared for her stem cell transplant and thirdly when she received the cord blood transplant. In total she received nine units of red cells, 44 units of white cells and seven units of platelets.
By the end of February she was out of hospital. "I felt such a responsibility looking after her, knowing what she'd been through. She was on 12 medications a day!" says Louise. Now the family are all looking forward to Christmas. "Thanks to donors and staff at both hospitals where Keira was treated, we will be having our best Christmas ever this year. I can't wait!"
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