Mother of boy, 7, who had a life-saving stem cell transplant says ‘thank you will never be enough’ for his donor – as family hope to get him out of isolated hospital room in time for Christmas

  • Finley Hill appeared on ITV’s This Morning in June to appeal for a stem cell donor
  • Three months later, family found donor in Brazil and Finley had life-saving op
  • His mother told This Morning he’s doing ‘brilliantly’ as he recovers in isolation 
  • Seven-year-old could now be allowed home for ‘a few hours’ on Christmas Day

The mother of a seven-year-old boy who underwent a life-saving stem cell transplant in November has revealed he’s recovering so well he may be able to go home for a ‘few hours’ on Christmas Day. 

Jo Hill, from Birmingham, appeared alongside her son Finley in an isolated medical room Birmingham Children’s Hospital on This Morning today. 

She told presenters Eammon Holmes and Ruth Langsford that the schoolboy, who has a rare autoimmune condition, is doing ‘brilliantly’ following the surgery. 

The family appeared on the show in June to appeal to the public to help him locate a stem cell donor and doctors eventually found a match with a donor in Brazil. 

Jo Hill and her son, from Birmingham, appeared on This Morning today to update viewers on Finley’s progress after the seven-year-old underwent a life-saving stem cell transplant in November

Jo spoke to presenters Eammon Holmes and Ruth Langsford from outside of Finley’s isolated hospital room, which he’s been in for a month to protect his immune system

The seven-year-old, who suffers from a rare autoimmune condition, had a very slim chance of finding a match with only two per cent of the UK on the stem cell register – but a match in Brazil was found over the summer and he had the operation in November (Pictured: Finley in June on This Morning)

Speaking about the donor has helped her son, Jo Hill tearfully told the show ‘Thank you will never be enough for what the wonderful man has done for Fin’

The seven-year-old, who has Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), had a very slim chance of finding a match with only two per cent of the UK on the stem cell register.

However, his surgery successful went ahead and he’s now in a recovery period that means he’ll have to spend at least three months in isolation in hospital. 

Taking the This Morning cameras into the isolation room to see her son, Jo became tearful when she talked about the donor, a 43-year-old man from Brazil, who has saved his life. 

She said: ”For the last month he hasn’t left this room and we don’t know when he will but he’s doing so well.’

The family are hopeful that Finley will be allowed back to his home for a few hours on Christmas Day

Finley revealed that he’d been filling the time in isolation by watching Kate Garraway on I’m a Celebrity – and the Good Morning Britain presenter sent him a get well soon message

Mum Jo told the show: ‘At the time of giving you can’t give a bigger gift than life.’

The little boy had a special delivery of presents that had been on his Christmas wish-list

Getting emotional, Jo added: ‘Thank you will never be enough for what the wonderful man has done for Fin. 

‘The biggest thank you will go out to him and anyone who has signed up to donate. At the time of giving you can’t give a bigger gift than life.’

The disorder causes the immune system to overreact, leading to inflammation and damage to tissues such as the liver, spleen and brain. 

Finley told the presenters that he’d been watching I’m a Celebrity to kill the boredom of being in a room on his own and that his favourite was runner-up Kate Garraway. 

The Good Morning Britain presenter posted a video message for Finley and the show arranged for some of the presents on his Christmas wish-list to be sent to the hospital.  

Finley Hill appeared on This Morning  with his parents Jo and Paul in June to appeal to the public to help him locate a stem cell donor (Pictured: Jo, Paul and Finley on This Morning on Monday)

After doctors in Birmingham ‘searched the world’ and ‘searched it again’, Finley and the family appeared on the show again in the summer to reveal a match had been located in Brazil.

WHAT IS HLH?

Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocystosis – or HLH – is a  rare autoimmune disease that usually occurs in young children.

There are two types of the condition: familial and acquired.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Enlargement of the liver
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rashes and jaundice 
  • Coughing and difficulty breathing
  • Stomachaches, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Headaches, trouble walking, visual disturbances, and weakness     

HLH can be treated through chemotherapy, immunotherapy, steroids and antibiotics.

If these forms of treatment fail, patients may need to undergo a stem cell transplant. 

 Source: HopkinsMedicine 

Speaking to hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield at the time, Jo revealed how she received the call the family ‘had been waiting for’ last Tuesday – on Finley’s first day back at school.

She said: ‘It was Tuesday, Finn had gone back to school and we had been asked to go in to the hospital. It was Fin’s first day back but they said they didn’t need him to be there.

‘So Fin went to school and Paul and I went to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and met with his specialist. We were told that they’d searched the world, and they’d searched it again, and there were five nine out of ten matches for Finley in Brazil. 

‘All of them in Brazil.’ 

Jo explained that although it would be more ideal to find a ten out of ten match, doctors said it was ‘better to go with a nine’ than wait for a ten they may never find. 

‘We did want a ten, but they said it was better to go with a nine while he’s doing so well, than wait for a ten that may never come,’ Jo said.

‘He could deteriorate so, we’re going to go for it.’ 

After doctors in Birmingham ‘searched the world’ and ‘searched it again’, Finley and the family appeared on the show again to reveal a match had been located in Brazil

Finley and his family will only be told very limited details about the stem cell donor for two years, after which both parties could agree to make contact. 

They said they were aware that he is a 43-year-old man: ‘That’s all we will know for two years,’ Jo said. ‘How can you love somebody you’ve never met? But they are helping our boy so we do, we already love him.

‘We would love to meet him, yeah, definitely’. 

Finley and his family will only be told very limited details about the stem cell donor for two years, after which both parties could agree to make contact

Finley’s symptoms started in 2016 when he was four-and-a-half years old at nursery, Mrs Hill said.

‘Finley was complaining of headaches which is weird for a four-year-old to have headaches,’ she added in June.

For Finley, his brain was the first to be affected. Some HLH patients develop neurological symptoms including seizures, mood changes, headaches, altered consciousness, and altered vision. 

Mrs Hill said at the time: ‘They said his images [of his brain] were so bad they thought he would be comatosed.’ 

Within 24 hours of the family’s appearance on This Morning in June, more than 11,000 people signed up to donate stem cells with DKMS.

Jo said: ‘It was phenomenal, within 24 hours over 11,000 people signed up to DKMS, giving hope and a chance to hundreds and hundreds of other families.

‘It is obviously an ongoing process and it takes time, but it was brilliant.’  

HLH, in which the immune system reacts abnormally, most often affects babies up to around 18 months, but can affect individuals of any age.

The exact prevalence is unknown, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, but one study estimates approximately one in 100,000 in under 18s.

DKMS organises donor recruitment in the UK. It says there are around 2,000 people in the UK searching for a blood stem cell donation each year and more than 37,000 people waiting worldwide. 

If you are aged between 17 – 55 and in general good health, take the first step to register as a blood stem cell donor by registering for your home swab kit at www.dkms.org.uk

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