A youngster who needed a bone marrow transplant has featured in a documentary about the life-changing work carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Keano Klein’s story was told in the first of a three-part series by BBC2 highlighting the work of the world-renowned children’s hospital in London.
Keano from Kettering was featured as senior doctors highlighted the imbalance between the numbers of people signed up to be bone marrow or stem cell donors from white Caucasian backgrounds compared with those from any other ethnic background in the UK.
Keano’s lead clinician, Professor Paul Veys, who is director of the bone marrow unit at GOSH and also features in the documentary, said: “For children like Keano who have rare conditions affecting their immune systems, a bone marrow transplant is often the only treatment offering them any chance of long-term survival.
“All children who undergo such a transplant face the risk of rejection, the side effects of toxic drugs and a number of other possible complications.
“But for patients from ethnically-diverse backgrounds, the odds are significantly stacked against them because of a chronic shortage of suitably matched donors.”
For children like Keano who have rare conditions affecting their immune systems, a bone marrow transplant is often the only treatment offering them any chance of long-term survivalProf Paul Veys
When Keano was just a few days old, his mum Chantelle noticed that his umbilical cord was not healing.
She took him to the doctors at home in Zimbabwe who thought that he had a hernia.
His cord continued not to heal and so Keano was referred to multiple doctors at several hospitals.
A doctor at a hospital in Harare suspected that Keano had a blood disorder and he was referred to a hospital in South Africa for further tests.
During this time, and by the age of just two, Keano had a large number of operations including removal of half of a lung and liver, and lots of invasive procedures.
After 10 months of tests, Keano was finally diagnosed with severe congenital neutropenia.
The condition makes individuals prone to recurrent infections due to a lack of neutrophils – a type of white blood cell in the bone marrow which fights infection.
Keano began to have regular blood tests to monitor his neutrophils, and it soon became clear he would need a bone marrow transplant.
The transplant would replace his damaged bone marrow, which couldn’t replace the right levels of white blood cells, with healthy bone marrow from a donor.
At that time, the genetic tests were not available in South Africa which meant Keano, then three, and his mum Chantelle would need to travel to the UK for treatment.
Since coming to the UK in 2008, Keano has been in and out of hospital battling infection after infection.
In August 2014 he became so unwell that he was admitted to GOSH, where he has remained for the past eight months.
The search for a suitable bone marrow donor became more urgent than ever.
After seven years of unsuccessful searching for a donor match, the difficult decision was made that Chantelle, although not an exact match for Keano, should donate bone marrow cells ready for transplantation into her son.
While there was no guarantee that the procedure would work, Keano would be unlikely to survive many more years without it.
Unfortunately, Keano’s body rejected his mum’s cells so doctors continued to look for a more suitable match – a difficult task due to Keano’s mixed ethnic background and the current lack of donors from mixed and ethnic minority groups.
Eventually, a potential match was found in America. Donor cells were processed, transported and transplanted into Keano in a record two weeks and the transplant was successful.
Keano now has a working immune system and continues to go from strength to strength.
He is visited daily by a teacher at the hospital school and his mum said: “He has a great sense of humour.”
It is hoped that Keano, now 10, can leave hospital soon.