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Faversham woman Roisin Kelleher first in UK to receive life-saving stem cell treatment for cystic fibrosis

Faversham’s pioneering patient Roisin Kelleher has become the first person in the UK to receive life-saving treatment for cystic fibrosis.

Roisin, of Whitstable Road, returned home from America after spending two weeks in the Dominican Republic undergoing stem-cell transplants.

The 20-year-old, who is a pupil at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, was also diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in July last year and her health suddenly and rapidly declined.

Roisin and her mum Anntoinette lying in bed, with brother Cian
Roisin and her mum Anntoinette lying in bed, with brother Cian

Her breathlessness, fatigue and endless amounts of medication and trips to London hospitals had taken a full grip on her life and school and dreams of university became completely out of reach.

In a life-changing moment, doctors suggested that Roisin was placed on a waiting list for a double lung transplant, a suggestion that Roisin described as like “signing my own death warrant”.

Roisin Kelleher has cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Picture: Tony Flashman
Roisin Kelleher has cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Picture: Tony Flashman

But her mother Anntoinette refused to give up hope and discovered Dr Greko’s miraculous treatment in the Dominican Republic.

Adult stem cell treatment heals the damaged lung tissues by harvesting healthy cells from the patient’s bone marrow and that of a genetic relative who does not suffer from CF.

For Roisin, the donor was her mother.

“It felt so alien and strange and I got a bit dizzy from the oxygen rush, but it has been so exciting" - Roisin

Doctors mix the two, activating them to become lung cells, then put the new stem cells back into the patient using an intravenous line.

The only problem was raising the £55,000 needed for the journey and treatment.

But Roisin again defied the odds and managed to raise more than £60,000 for the Breathe Hope for Roisin campaign, and the money is still trickling in.

After leaving for America on January 19, Roisin has had the treatment and is now back in the UK.

Roisin said: “I have taken my first proper deep breath in forever.

“It felt so alien and strange and I got a bit dizzy from the oxygen rush, but it has been so exciting. It’s something I’ll have to work on, as I have a habit of shallow breathing which is all I could do before, so now I have to re-train my body to this.

“As beautiful as it is out here, I haven’t been able to appreciate it as at first I was sleeping all day due to the journey and then I was being sick and in pain from the malaria tablet and lastly being in the hospital for treatment and recovery.

“I just can’t wait for the next six weeks to happen and really see the effects of the treatment.”

Roisin Kelleher had her life-saving stem-cell treatment in Dominican Republic
Roisin Kelleher had her life-saving stem-cell treatment in Dominican Republic

Anntoinette said: “It’s very emotional and heartwarming to reflect over the past few months when this was all a dream.

“It is thanks to all the support from many wonderful people that Roisin has had her dreams come true, and it’s the beginning of a whole new journey for her and us all as a family.”

Roisin will need to have more treatment later this year but should see gradual improvements over the next six weeks.


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