Austin Brown was diagnosed with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) when he was just three months old.
Five weeks after being born, Austin’s parents – Lewis and Kasia – noticed a persistent rash over his head.
He was initially diagnosed with eczema. But, after later contracting a severe case of hand, foot and mouth disease – an infection that causes mouth ulcers, and spots on the hands and feet – Austin was diagnosed with WAS.
WAS almost always affects boys, according to Boston Children’s Hospital. Less than 10 boys in every million develop the condition.
The only cure for WAS is a stem cell bone marrow transplant, according to blood charity Anthony Nolan, who helped with Austin’s treatment.
Some treatments kill the body’s stem cells in bone marrow, which the body needs to survive. In order to receive WAS treatment, Austin needed a donor to give him their stem cells, so he could survive treatment.
In July this year, Austin – now just nine months old – received his life-saving transplant, after a suitable donor was found.
He and his family can now enjoy Christmas this year, after “a tough couple of months”.
“Last Christmas Austin hadn’t been diagnosed, but we knew that something was wrong, so it was playing on the back of our minds,” said Austin’s dad, Lewis.
“Following the transplant, Austin’s immune system was very weak. It meant we had to be very careful around friends and family to make sure he didn’t get sick.
“It’s been a really tough couple of months, but all things going to plan, Christmas will be the time when Austin’s recovery will be at a point where we can start to relax and enjoy ourselves again, so it will be a bit of a double celebration.”
Anthony Nolan’s Director of Engagement, Richard Davidson, added: “We are so pleased that Austin and his family will be able to celebrate Christmas this year.
“Christmas is a special time of year so it is wonderful when we can see patients, like Austin, able to enjoy themselves and spend time with their family.”
You can help Anthony Nolan by joining the stem cell register, or by donating “vital funds”.
Bone marrow stem cells eventually mature into immune cells that fight off invaders, including bacteria, viruses and parasites.
Without functioning immune cells, people are susceptible to developing pneumonia, eczema, chronic diarrhoea and viral infections.
WAS is a genetic immunodeficiency, that can make it difficult for children’s bone marrow to produce platelets. This could make them prone to bleeding, even from mild bumps and scrapes.
The bleeding can occur under the skin, from the nose, in the brain, from the gums and mouth, or in bowel movements.
As a result, WAS patients are at a higher risk of developing arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and some cancers.