Kelvin’s story

Kelvin Bruce-Smith

Kelvin was diagnosed with Leukaemia at 6 years of age, and after numerous tests and further bouts of illness, specialists delivered the devastating news that he would need a bone marrow transplant to save his life.

However, with low numbers of suitable bone marrow donors, the odds were stacked against 6-year-old Kelvin Bruce-Smith.

Without healthy bone marrow, Kelvin would need regular blood transfusions just to keep him alive.

Unlike matching blood types, a person’s race does play a significant role in bone marrow matching. So the young battler from Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri, Ngatikahu and Ngahuhi-Nui-Tono iwi, needed a bone marrow donor of Maori descent who closely matched his tissue type. A match within Kelvin’s close family was not found, so the search was passed to the New Zealand Bone Marrow Registry.

With only 6,000 M?ori or Pacific Island donors on the NZ database (compared to the 11.5 million European donors on other registries), Kelvin was unable to find a bone marrow donor. This meant more waiting, during which time he received 22 units of platelets, 9 units of red blood cells, 9 units of fresh frozen plasma and 41 units of plasma derived blood products.

Kelvin was unable to find a bone marrow donor anywhere in the world. Luckily, because of his age, Kelvin was able to receive a unit of umbilical cord blood (which also contains the necessary blood forming cells found in bone marrow) 5 months before his 7th birthday.

Following his transplant, Kelvin was closely monitored with regular check-ups and was finally given the all clear in 2004. Today, Kelvin leads an active life like any other 12-year-old boy.

If you are aged between 18 and 40 years old, particularly if you are not Caucasian, and would like more information on the Bone Marrow Donor Registry please speak to a nurse before your next donation. For more information ph 0800 800 256 or email

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