Father-of-three seeks bone marrow donor with Scots-Italian heritage

Gennaro Rapinese with wife Joanna and kids Mia, seven, Stella, six, and two-year-old Nicholas
Gennaro Rapinese with wife Joanna and kids Mia, seven, Stella, six, and two-year-old Nicholas
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A father-of-three from Australia with a rare form of leukaemia is seeking a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from a donor with Scottish-Italian heritage.

Gennaro Rapinese, who’s father Nick is Italian, can trace his great grandparents on his mother’s side back to Scotland with one of them originally from Dalkeith in Midlothian.

The 39-year-old needs to trace a donor for an urgent transplant with similar racial and ethnic heritage as bone marrow is based on genetics not blood type.

The highest likelihood of finding a match is within the same ethnic group.

Mr Rapinese who lives in the Australian city of Perth, was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in 2015 when a routine blood test revealed leukaemic blasts in his blood cells.

He underwent months of gruelling chemotherapy and went into remission at the start of 2016 – only for the cancer to return in February this year.

Mr Rapinese, whose wife Joanne gave birth to Nicolas aged two, when he was in remission, has found no-one in Australia who is a right match – including his three sisters.

He also has two daughters, Mia aged seven and six-year-old Stella.

The bone marrow register is worldwide and he is now appealing to people with Scottish-Italian heritage to give blood in the hope that this can lead to him finding a suitable bone marrow donor.

Mr Rapinese told the Scotsman how he reacted on finding out the cancer had returned.

He said: “I pretty much collapsed on the kitchen floor.

“I know that this time is more serious and I have to have the bone marrow transplant.

“My immune system does not work and if I don’t find a match then I am a dead man walking.

“The match is all about the DNA. My mother’s parents were of Scottish descent and my father is Italian.

“For the donor it is as easy as giving blood.

“You don’t have to be a fireman, policeman or doctor to be a lifesaver.

“You just have to give a little blood.”

Family and friends have formed a support network, including a Facebook page called “G’s Army” to provide encouragement and help to Mr Rapinese and his family.

His wife Joanne said “our life was turned upside down” on receiving the news that the cancer had returned.

Mr Rapinese said he had initially gone to the doctor for a check-up because he ‘felt off’ and thought he may be low in iron.

He added: “I went to the doctor because I wasn’t 100 per cent and the next thing I knew I was in the emergency ward. It is not a light chemotherapy they give you – it was pretty intense.

“I went blind for a period and I also got salmonella poisoning, which is pretty serious when you’ve got no immune system.

“It got pretty sketchy. It was very hard for my wife and my kids to watch.”

Mr Rapinese’s plight has been picked up by the media in Australia and he has recently appeared on television.

Cancer Research UK say on their website that generally 20 per cent of people living with AML will survive their leukaemia for five or more years after their diagnosis.

A bone marrow transplant is a way of giving very high dose chemotherapy, sometimes with whole body radiotherapy. The treatment aims to try to cure some types of blood cancer.

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