FRIDAY, APRIL 27: Leukaemia patient Malcolm ‘Mal’ Lewis told his wife Dawnette he wasn’t going to die despite being in a bleak situation.
He had been diagnosed with leukaemia and needed a bone marrow transplant.
His siblings were ruled out, as they weren’t matches.
But Mr Lewis found a match seven months after diagnosis and is recovering in Boston.
We told you about his struggle to find a bone marrow donor back in November.
Mrs Lewis had set up a bone marrow drive through the Dana Farber Institute in Boston and a match was finally found on the international bone marrow registry.
As of today, the donor cells have taken over 91 per cent.
Mr Lewis underwent a successful hone marrow transplant at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
He will have to remain there for the next four to six months.
He must wear surgical masks and gloves as his immune system is low and his risk of infection is high.
Mrs Lewis explained how the whole process began.
“Last year June he suffered a thumb injury that became infected.
“Doctors here had to operate on the thumb and noticed it would not stop bleeding.
“After further blood tests, it was revealed that his red and white blood cells were very low because they were being attacked by blast cells.”
Mrs Lewis said an oncologist at the hospital gave him a bone marrow biopsy, which revealed he had leukaemia.
“He was referred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital the very next day and it was at Brigham that he was confirmed to have Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.”
Dr Richard Stone, head leukaemia doctor at the Brigham and Women’s hospital and leukaemia lecturer at Harvard School of Medicine, treated Mr Lewis.
“Dr. Stone thought the best approach would be a seven-day dose of aggressive chemo therapy.
“After a two-week rest, another bone biopsy showed that all cancer cells were not destroyed and he had to get another dose of chemo, this time a five-day dose.
“Mal remained in the hospital for 12 weeks receiving antibiotics, blood transfusions and platelets along with various vitamins and minerals to ward off infections because his cell counts were low.”
Mrs Lewis said it was then doctors said he would need a bone marrow transplant.
Each of his siblings was tested but only half a match was found in one of his sisters.
Mrs Lewis said the Be The Match Marrow organization, an affiliation of Dana Farber, organised a two-week bone marrow drive in Bermuda in November of last year.
A bone marrow committee was formed here by Mrs Lewis and chaired by Jocene Wade.
After printing posters and getting the word out, the drive was set up.
But at the 11th hour, Mrs Lewis realized people from outside the US couldn’t participate.
“The Be The Match personnel at Dana Farber had no idea this would happen.”
“Bermuda needs a registry and hopefully one day one would be established.
“Doctors here were surprised that Bermuda did not have a registry,” she added.
Mr Lewis’s donor lives in Europe and is in his or her early thirties.
He doesn’t know the identity of the donor.
Asked how she has coped with the ordeal, Mrs Lewis said: “Throughout this experience with Mal, I remained upbeat and strong.
“I experienced no doubt because my faith is very strong in a higher power.
“Also, Mal remained positive, strong and bull-headed, refusing that the worst would happen. One day he told me, ‘Hey look Dawnette, I am not going to die you know, I’m not going nowhere yet’.
“Even when a match was not found within his siblings, he was told a match might or might not be found in the marrow bank, he still seemed unafraid, not phased, upbeat and very positive.
“His whole attitude was encouraging to me. Our faith is strong, God is real and his spirit lives in us. Also moral support from family, friends, neighbors, work colleagues and total strangers was uplifting and encouraging.”
The Lewis’ have been in Boston since July 1, returning home in September for two weeks.
They will remain there until at least July.