AN inspirational teenager who has battled leukaemia and had a bone marrow transplant has now been told she needs a life-saving lung transplant.
Brave Hayley Barker (16), who lives in Padiham, was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on Christmas Day 2004, aged just eight. She underwent two-and-a-half years of intensive treatment at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and it seemed to be working.
But in 2009 the disease returned and Hayley had to have a 13-week course of chemotherapy and full body radiation at the Christie Hospital in Manchester.
Doctors then decided that she would need a bone marrow transplant and, after a three-month wait, a donor was found through the Anthony Nolan Trust and Hayley had the operation.
Her mum Lisa (39) said: “The doctors thought she would sail through the transplant but she contracted a life-threatening virus and ended up in intensive care.”
After two days on a ventilator Hayley came out of the intensive care unit. She spent three months in hospital but when she returned home she began to suffer from a skin condition caused by graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) – her body trying to reject the new bone marrow.
She is undergoing regular specialist photo light treatment to help with the skin condition, must take a daily cocktail of medication, including steroids, attend weekly hospital appointments in Manchester and has regular hospital stays.
Six weeks ago Hayley and her family were given the devastating news that the GVHD is now attacking the cells in her lungs and she will need a transplant. She struggles to breathe, needs oxygen 24 hours a day and has to use a wheelchair if she goes out because she is easily tired.
She is now campaigning for more people to join the donor register in the hope she will not have a long wait for a transplant and have a better quality of life. She is set to undergo assessment in the coming weeks to make sure her other organs are strong enough to cope with surgery.
“I just feel like I need to be independent,” said Hayley, who lives with her mum, window cleaner dad Gary (38), sister Leah (13) and brother Leighton (4).
“I’ve always relied on people. I want to be able to go out and do some cool stuff without my parents.
“I just want to feel normal again and go out and do stuff with my friends.
“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I just want to be able to go out and enjoy myself.
“I want people to get on the donor register, it can save a life.”
Hayley has just completed her GCSE exams at St Augustine’s RC High School in Billington, even though her teachers said she could opt out of taking the exams, and has been given a conditional place at Burnley College to study A-levels in biology, chemistry, maths and psychology in September.
Lisa, who said it is extremely rare for bone marrow transplant patients to then need a lung transplant, praised her daughter’s positive nature and said that had helped the whole family cope with her illness.
“When your child’s poorly you can make them better but with Hayley I’ve never been able to do that, I’ve always had to put my trust in other people,” she said.
“We make the most of everything. Despite being poorly Hayley is an A* pupil. She always has her head in a book.
“She’s just amazing and I’m so proud of her. She keeps me strong.”