Brave Livingston lad Calum battled rare disorder to win gold

A BRAVE seven-year-old boy battling a rare, life-threatening disorder is celebrating after winning gold medals at a national Olympics-style event.
Calum Lambert.Calum Lambert.
Calum Lambert.

Calum Lambert, from Livingston, was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder when he was only three after problems with nose bleeds, bruises and infections.

His father, Derek, said the family were devastated. “They told us Calum’s only chance of survival would be a transplant from an unrelated donor,” he said.

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The 39-year-old recalled, “It was a complete shock to find out he had a life-threatening condition and would need specialist care.” Calum had a life-saving stem cell transplant and a few years after treatment his parents said they could not put into words how grateful they were their son had a second chance at life.

Derek said: “When we see him winning at tennis or even just taking him to school, we realise how lucky we are and how different things could have been.” When doctors first did tests in December 2013, they thought Calum had leukaemia and he was blue lighted to the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids in Edinburgh.

But after days of tests the family found out Calum had the serious blood disorder aplastic anaemia, which stops bone marrow and stem cells producing enough blood cells. Doctors couldn’t identify a cause despite doing extensive tests.

“They said the transplant was the best option, but since Calum has no brothers or sisters we had to wait for an unrelated donor,” Derek said. “And they said the transplant could make the condition worse. We hoped and just took each day at a time.”

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Derek and Calum’s mum Diane, 41, had the longest wait of their life until they got the call from blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan. The charity had found a donor with an exact match. “It was a ten out of ten match – the best news we could hope for,” Derek said.

Calum was given chemotherapy and had extended drug treatment following the transplant. Derek said: “He became quite sick on and off for a couple of months. It was a scary time. But slowly, he got better.”

Successful bone marrow transplant is considered to be a cure for the disorder, which affects about 30 children every year in the UK. Calum will need to have regular check-ups throughout his life, but Derek – a finance manager – said his son was living a normal life thanks to his donor. “He graduated from nursery a month after the transplant,” Derek said. “It was something to see him smiling beside his friends, a real milestone.

“All going well after his next review in October, then they will move Calum to annual reviews. To see him today playing tennis is hard to believe. It’s like a miracle.”

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Calum won gold in the tennis and ball throw and a silver medal in the 50m sprint at the recent British Transplant Games – an annual Olympic style event for people who have received transplants.

Derek said: ‘We are so proud of him, his enthusiasm and his spirit. The worry never leaves that he could get ill again. We think about it every day. It’s hard to put into words how thankful we are to the donor, Anthony Nolan, and amazing doctors.

“They saved our son.”