I couldn’t do this to a stranger, much less my own brother.

Imagine that you have a rare tissue type, and you have leukemia. You need a bone marrow transplant or you’ll die within the year. Now imagine that the one and only person in the entire country who has been found to be a match is refusing to become a donor. And that person is your own sister.

That’s the situation for a London father of three named Simon Pretty. They’ve already eliminated the entire UK donor registry and found no matches. Doctors are currently giving him highly aggressive chemotherapy in an effort to keep him alive long enough to find another donor in international registries. The chances of finding a match outside of family is very small to begin with (and in Simon’s case even smaller, due to his rare tissue type). A less than exact match also has a much lower chance of beating the cancer.

Simon and his wife Jacqueline are the parents of three children, aged eight, six and three. Simon’s sister Helen has two children, aged eight and three. The siblings live less than ten miles apart and their children play together.

Helen had originally agreed to donate bone marrow back in 2004 when her brother was first diagnosed. He went into remission, making the transplant unnecessary. Then, in February, his leukemia returned with a vengeance — and suddenly Helen inexplicably changed her mind about donating.

Mr Pretty’s wife Jacqueline said: “It is appalling that Helen can stand by and watch her brother die knowing that she could do something to help him. The past few months have been hell.”Mrs Pretty approached her sister-in-law in an attempt to change her mind but lost her temper and was eventually arrested. No charge was brought.

Jacqueline Pretty said: “She opened the front door halfway and I told her that things were desperate and the children thought their daddy was going to die. She said ‘Sorry, I am not doing it’. I asked her to give me a reason and she said ‘I am putting my family first’.

“I explained that there were no risks involved. I was so upset and I said, ‘Don’t you care if your brother dies?’ She said ‘It’s very sad’, and smirked.”

The family then received a letter from his sister’s solicitor asking them to keep their distance.

Even if she’s got some gripe with her brother, how on earth can she live with herself knowing that her niece and nephews will be left without a father and she could have stopped it?

The comments left on the article are divided about evenly between those supporting the brother and those supporting his sister. One mentioned that it sounds as though she is frightened of the donation procedure and chided people for not recognizing that her fears are legitimate.

It is not cowardice, nor childishness, but a genuine psychological terror that is extremely difficult to overcome, and difficult for most people to understand.

It’s even more difficult to overcome the guilt she’s going to experience if her brother dies before they find another donor — or if he dies because they can’t find another donor.

There are two methods of harvesting the marrow stem cells necessary to perform the transplant. There’s no permanent “loss” to her (like there would be with a kidney donation, for instance). One of the procedures is more invasive than the other:

In this procedure donors have a general anaesthetic and surgeons drill holes into their pelvic bones before using a needle and syringe to withdraw the blood stem cells.Donors are bedridden for two days and the stem cells replenish themselves within 21 days. The greatest risk is that patients could have a reaction to the anaesthetic.

Donors may experience lower back-pain and fatigue along with post-operative tenderness. It takes up to a week to recuperate.

The less invasive procedure involves harvesting stem cells circulating in the blood over two four-hour periods on consecutive days.

A natural growth hormone is injected before the process to stimulate the movement of stem cells from the marrow to the blood stream.

Donated blood is then passed through a machine that isolates the stem cells. Donors can feel woozy and experience flu-like symptoms but resume their routines in about a week.

I might understand a little bit of reluctance to undergo the first method (although I’d do it to save someone’s life for God’s sake), but the second one sounds about twice as taxing as donating blood. No way in hell would I allow someone to die rather than deal with a week’s recuperation from flu-like symptoms.

FOXNews.com – Sister of Dying Man Refuses to Donate Bone Marrow to Save His Life | I have been sentenced to death by my sister – the Daily Mail | What a donor has to go through – the Daily Mail | Kate blogs at The Original Musings.

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