Parents of toddler saved by stranger's plasma donation back NHS blood campaign

The parents of a toddler struck down with a little-understood inflammatory disease say an anonymous plasma donor saved her life.

Aurora Flaherty, who is two and a half, went from being an energetic, bubbly little girl to "lethargic and not really moving" while on holiday at Butlins with her family.

Her worried parents took her to the out-of-hours doctor who decided Aurora, who was running a fever and being sick repeatedly, should be taken straight to hospital.

"I asked the consultant if she was going to die," said mother Carrie-Anne Wilson, speaking at her home in Northampton.

"She said that was why they weren't moving her. She wasn't stable.

"I was hurting for her. It was the worst thing I have ever had in my life."

Aurora Flaherty was rushed to hospital after going lethargic with a high temperature. Credit: Family photo

Doctors decided to treat her for Kawasaki disease - an illness that causes inflammation in the blood vessels and can cause heart disease in children.

"They didn't know at the time if that was what was wrong with her," said Miss Wilson, who is engaged to Aurora's dad Simon Flaherty.

"They said 'we're going to treat her for this and if it works, it works'."

The treatment saw Aurora given immunoglobulin medicine made from donated plasma - the liquid part of blood which is rich in antibodies to help the body fight infections.

NHS Blood and Transplant has around 5,850 plasma donors on its books at the moment - but needs nearly double that.

Mr Flaherty said he and his fiancee were now both donors.

"It was a stranger that saved Aurora's life," he said. "And it's something we're quite passionate about now."

Once she was given the medicine, the toddler gradually began to improve and was allowed home after two weeks in hospital.

"Within 24 hours of receiving it she could sit up," said Aurora's dad. "Maybe three days after that she started playing with things on her lap. It was just a massive, massive sense of relief.”

Mr Flaherty said it took "four to six months before we really saw Aurora back again" and a year to recover fully.

Aurora Flaherty's life was saved thanks to a plasma donor. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The family are now backing NHSBT's first ever Plasma Donation week which hopes to encourage more people to sign up.

It has only been possible to donate plasma in the UK since 2021.

In 1998, the collection of plasma from donors here for use in immunoglobulin was banned because of the possible risks of vCJD. Instead, plasma was imported to make medicines.

NHSBT has three dedicated plasma donation centres in Birmingham, Reading and Twickenham.

But it can also be taken from regular blood donations - which is how Aurora's parents do it.

"It is kind of like a magical fluid that can literally bring somebody back from almost death,” said the toddler's dad.

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