Thousands Line Up in the Rain to Donate Stem Cells to 5-Year-Old With Terminal Cancer

May 2, 2019 Updated: May 7, 2019

It can be heartbreaking to learn that a young child is fighting for their life—and for a community in Worcester, England, the prospect of a little rain wasn’t enough to keep away the thousands who hoped to make a difference for one sick little boy.

A staggering 5,000 people got in line in the drizzling rain for a record-breaking turnout in late February to get tested as stem cell donors for 5-year-old Oscar Saxelby-Lee, who was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of cancer in December.

Day by day hand in hand for our little warrior, we love you so much Oscar 🙏🙏🙏

Posted by Jamie Lee on Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Saxelby-Lee underwent four weeks of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which affects about 650 people in Britain every year.

Doctors delivered his parents some grim news, though, when they admitted that he would require a stem cell transplant within three months as well; his cancer was too aggressive to be treated with chemotherapy alone.

Heartbroken, his parents knew that he would need a stem cell donor—so they put out the call, banding together with Oscar’s primary school to hold a stem cell d0nor registration drive in their area.

I'm so proud of our little warrior 😍💙🙏🤞🎗

Posted by Jamie Lee on Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The hope was that one of the people who turned out to register as a stem cell donor would turn up as a match for Oscar, so they crossed their fingers that the drive would yield a large turnout.

What they never expected, though, was the sheer size of the turnout itself!

Over the course of the drive, nearly 200 volunteers showed up from around the country to register a recorded 1,800 people on the first day and over 3,000 on day two. Another 1,000 then registered online to become a donor, bringing the total to 5,000 who braved the elements and 6,000 total for the registry system to sift through and hopefully find a match.

The process to find a match itself takes about six weeks, as it’s more complicated than just finding a blood donor match.

Posted by Olivia Saxelby on Saturday, April 13, 2019

“It’s incredibly difficult to find someone who is a suitable match because there are 17,000 HLA characteristics that have to be looked at,” Lisa Nugent, the head of donor recruitment, said via the New York Times.

The sheer volume of people who wanted to make a difference, though, provides an incredible ray of hope for a kid like Oscar.

“People queued around the block, in the pouring rain, and nobody moaned about it. The spirit we had here was absolutely incredible, the generosity of people,” explained Sue Bladen, who serves as business manager for the Pitmaston Primary School. The school hopped on to help the Saxelby-Lee family from the start, organizing the event and helping to get the word out.

There was a grueling waiting period before Oscar would find out if any of the people who stood in line can help to save his life. And in the interim, he still underwent treatment, putting his body through the wringer as the doctors worked to fight off the incredibly aggressive disease.

Absolutely buzzing with today's MRD results, Oscar was 30%high risk when he was first diagnose with acute lypthablastic…

Posted by Jamie Lee on Thursday, March 21, 2019

As his parents explained, though, the little boy is still full of cheer—and it’s easy to attribute plenty of that to the immense crowd of people who wanted to make a difference in his life.

“Leaving Oscar this morning to show our gratitude to all those who have stood by our side and done their bit to help save our beautiful, kind and loving boy was very difficult, but on return his little face lit up as we shared all the lovely videos,” Ms. Saxelby said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

And in the best news possible, a match was found—less than four weeks after the event was held, three different matched donors popped up in the system, ensuring that Oscar will be able to get his necessary transplant.

❗!!WE HAVE THE BEST NEWS TO SHARE!!❗ OSCAR HAS A MATCH!!!!!!! Wahooooooooooo 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 Mum: Absolutely thrilled to announce Oscar has finally got a stem cell match, not just one but three 🤩 and will be under going transplant very soon!! 🎗️💪🙏🎗️ What an emotional rollercoaster 😳🤪 it's literally been a journey of heartache and dread continuosly, but ….. WOW!!!! What a feeling of relief and positivity to help Oscar kick cancers butt!! 💪💪💪💪 Com'on Bear you've got this! 💙💙 It has been so so traumatic but we are over the moon with being given a chance to tackle the next step in treatment!!!! 😁😁😁 Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all of you out there who have registered, supported and continued to spread the word for our beautiful boy and those in need of wonderous bone marrow cells ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ We could never have done this without you all!!! 🙌 Thank you to Land Rover who donated the Jeep to the raffle and those in Ross who kindly gave it to Oscar!😘 HUGS to you all!!! Although we haven't had specific details of the chosen donor and won't for about 2 years post transplant, we will know the details such as age, gender and nationality as soon as the donor is chosen!! 🎗️🎗️🎗️🎗️🎗️🎗️🤩 I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am….we all are!!! 😍😍😍😍 In fact I don't think any news has ever made us so happy in our entire lives!!! We know this is the beginning of yet another tough journey but we will beat this together and get him home where he belongs, living the life he absolutely deserves 🙌👪🎗️🏅🏡❤️ Bear we are all behind you my darling 😇 Here's to a long but positive road ahead 🙌🤞💙 Again thank you all!!!! WE'RE ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY #handinhandforoscar #faith #hope #strength #childhoodcancer #helpusbeatcancer #lovePitmaston PTA DKMS Midlands Hub Anthony Nolan Worcester News BBC Hereford & Worcester BBC Midlands Brockhampton Court – Brockhampton Care Group The Prince of Wales

Posted by Hand In Hand for Oscar on Friday, March 29, 2019

“Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all of you out there who have registered, supported and continued to spread the word for our beautiful boy and those in need of wonderous bone marrow cells,” wrote his mom.

“We know this is the beginning of yet another tough journey but we will beat this together and get him home where he belongs, living the life he absolutely deserves.”

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