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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 12:20 GMT
Race against time to find a donor
By Liz Lewis
BBC News, Bristol

Teenager Yvette Gate loves fashion, pop music and going out with her friends but that is where the similarities between herself and her peers ends.

Four years ago the 14-year-old from Bristol was diagnosed with Aplastic Anaemia - where the bone marrow fails to produce red cells, platelets and white cells.

After treatment in hospital failed, her parents were told her only option was a bone marrow transplant.

Finding a match is a difficult enough challenge but for Yvette it is compounded by the lack of donors on the register from ethnic minority groups.

Yvette Gate
Yvette has recently been well enough to return to school

A patient in need of a transplant is more likely to discover a suitable donor amongst groups of people who share a similar genetic history.

"It's one of the few things in life where race does matter," said her father David Gate.

"It's very difficult for her now as she's a teenager and she wants to be normal and do what all her friends are doing, but for her there's a limit," he said.

"Recently we had to take her to hospital when she had a nosebleed because she can bleed to death. She has to be very careful with herself," he added.

A year ago Yvette was completely transfusion-dependent. Every week she had to go to hospital for blood platelets and once a month for red blood.

Now, although her blood counts have started to level out they remain very low.

Mr Gate, 43, has quit his job to work full-time raising funds and organising donor sessions in the hope that a suitable match will be found for Yvette.

"It's a struggle; if I said to you it's easy, it is not," he said. "We stumble many times but we stay positive with her."

As well as organising eight donor drives in Bristol to explain what happens when you go on the donor register, David has signed up for the city's 10km road race on the first bank holiday weekend in May.

"It's an act of desperation really. You can't pay someone to fundraise for you when there's no money to begin with," he said.

When your child becomes ill, it's like you the parent become ill
Mary Gate
"I've run for the bus a couple of times but that's about the extent of my running but now the campaign is full-time, I'm hoping people will join me running and sign up for the register," he said.

While David is beginning training sessions, Yvette is enjoying being well enough to go to school for the first time in three-and-a-half years.

Even so, she has to be extra careful as a knock in the school grounds or during sports could lead to internal bleeding and she is vulnerable to infection.

Finding a donor is an ongoing world-wide search but her dedicated parents have vowed to continue campaigning tirelessly until they do.

"When your child becomes ill, it's like you the parent become ill as well," said Yvette's mother Mary, 37.

"She knows we are working hard to find a match for her."

Teenager needs bone marrow donor
30 Jan 08 |  Bristol/Somerset

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