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Inverness family plea: 'Help us to save Riley'

By Louise Glen

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Riley Maclennan (7) is back in hosptial after a second cancer diagnosis.
Riley Maclennan (7) is back in hosptial after a second cancer diagnosis.

The family of a boy hit by cancer for a second time is calling for more people to sign up as stem cell donors in a bid to help save his life.

Riley Maclennan (7), from Ness Castle in Inverness, was hospitalised again last week, just months after going into remission.

Originally battling acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, doctors now believe he has myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) which becomes acute myeloid leukaemia in children.

Riley was just two when he was first diagnosed with leukaemia in December 2016 after developing bruises on his legs and stomach.

After almost four years his cancer was finally declared to be in remission in October last year.

Now, however, the family have been left reeling by the diagnosis of this second cancer, which is normally only seen in older adults.

Despite the blow they have vowed to remain positive and are calling on others to do what they can to help their son and others like him.

Riley’s dad, Kevin Maclennan, explained how they went back to doctors after Riley began getting sore legs and being sick.

Tests revealed the level of platelet blood cells in his system was very high, a sign that something was seriously wrong.

“His level was nearly at 2000 – 10 times what it should be,” Mr Maclennan said.

“His blood tests were repeated and they confirmed the news.

“We were taken into the Sick Children’s Hospital in Glasgow – we thought we had lost him last Wednesday afternoon.

“On Thursday, Riley spent two hours in surgery getting a Hickman line (a tube to deliver treatment) and bone marrow taken for tests.

“He has been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, which is to do with the platelets.

“We have been told that it will lead to acute myeloid leukaemia.

Riley MacLennan with mum and dad Moria and Kevin after he was declared free of cancer last year. Picture: Callum Mackay
Riley MacLennan with mum and dad Moria and Kevin after he was declared free of cancer last year. Picture: Callum Mackay

“We have been told that they have never seen this before in a child after treatment – it’s a blood cancer normally seen in people who are over 70 – and medics are researching how to go forward.”

There are no other confirmed cases of a child suffering this condition anywhere else in the world at present, though there is a similar case in America and in two children currently at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

“What medics think is that, when Riley was recovering from lymphoblastic leukaemia, one of the cells that was going into remission split and it jumped to myeloid leukaemia,” Mr Maclennan said.

“We have been asked for permission for Riley’s case to be used to help others and we have said ‘no problem’ – we don’t want any other family to have to go through what we are going through.”

Admitting he and wife Moira are “devastated” by the latest turn of events he said they are nevertheless trying to remain positive.

“We have had a few days of crying and being angry, but we decided that we need to make sure we get the best for Riley, and we want to make the very best of this terrible situation,” he said.

Issuing a personal plea to fellow Highlanders he added: “We need as many people as possible to sign up to become stem cell donors, as the likelihood is that Riley will need stem cell treatment.

“We need people to sign up with the register at dkms.org.uk

“DKMS will send out a DIY pack where you take a swab from your mouth and send it back to them.

“People up to the age of 55 can register, but the majority of donors are from the 16-30 age group. Everyone who can should sign up to save a life.”

READ: Inspirational Riley (6) is a real Highland hero as he marks milestone in his battle against cancer

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