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Mum credits blood donors for helping save daughter's life after leukaemia diagnosis

Roisin Butler has credited the blood transfusions of 40 strangers with helping her daughter Aila fight leukaemia. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)
Roisin Butler has credited the blood transfusions of 40 strangers with helping her daughter Aila fight leukaemia. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)

A mum whose baby battled rare leukaemia has thanked the 40 strangers who she credits for helping to save her daughter's life by giving crucial blood transfusions.

In July 2022, Aila Milne, from Poole, Bournemouth, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia when she was just five months old.

Following her cancer diagnosis, Aila underwent four rounds of gruelling chemotherapy coupled with up to three blood transfusions a day to recover her red blood cells and platelets.

During the treatment she was given 40 transfusions from 40 different donors, which her parents believe helped save their daughter's life.

After one last round of chemotherapy, on Christmas Day in 2022, Alia, now one, was declared cancer-free a month later.

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Aila in hospital. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)
Aila in hospital. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)

She is now thriving at home with parents Roisin Butler, 29, a manager at an opticians, and Jason Milne, 31, a music student.

"It's so lovely to be able to do normal things now," Butler says.

"The first morning we came home from the hospital I had her in her highchair and I made her breakfast for the first time in months.

"We put music on and had a little dance, it's something so simple, but I appreciate every day."

Speaking of the 40 strangers who provided the blood which helped her daughter Butler says: "It was such a selfless act. I think giving blood is the kindest thing a person can do.

"Every time you donate you are saving someone. My daughter was saved and I will be forever grateful."

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Roisin Butler and her daughter Aila in hospital. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)
Roisin Butler and her daughter Aila in hospital. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)

After giving birth to Aila on 23rd February 2022, four weeks later Butler noticed her daughter had caught a cold.

"We thought maybe she had a diary allergy," she explains. "But she could barely breathe and was sleeping for up to 20 hours a day."

While the children's outpatient unit at Poole Hospital booked her an appointment for late September, Butler phoned every day for a closer appointment and was eventually seen on July 22, 2022.

"The consultant we had was incredible," Butler says.

"They organised blood tests for that day.

"Aila had a lump on her head, so they set up an ultrasound for that too.

"Later that evening the doctor rang me and asked us to bring Alia back in immediately as her white blood cells were not looking normal.

"I just knew something was wrong," she adds.

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Aila Milne was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia when she was just five months old. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)
Aila Milne was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia when she was just five months old. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)

When the family arrived back, two consultants were already waiting to speak to them.

"They told us we were about to have a conversation we'd never forget," Butler says.

Doctors told the couple that their daughter had leukaemia and would need to be transferred to Southampton General Hospital.

After waiting for a bed to become available overnight, Aila was transferred the following morning by ambulance.

"We were told Aila was so unwell they didn't know if she would make the 40-minute journey to Southampton," Butler says.

"I just remember vomiting outside the ambulance.

"I'd gone to get some fresh air and because they were so unsure, I felt sure she'd pass away.

"I just couldn't see us getting there, my body was in shock because I hadn't eaten or slept for so long.

"She was in an intensive care pod too so I couldn't even hold her."

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After arriving at the new hospital, Aila was intubated whilst she had a seven-hour MRI scan which revealed tumours all over her skull.

On her fifth day in intensive care, Aila was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, which is more commonly seen in adults.

"We were taken into a family room straight away, and they told us to essentially bring our families up to say goodbye," Butler continues.

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Roisin Butler and her daughter Aila. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)
Roisin Butler and her daughter Aila. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)

After five days in ICU she was transferred to a cancer ward for treatment.

"She definitely had times where it was incredibly touch and go," her mum says.

"They didn't know if she would be able to start treatment."

Thankfully, doctors were able to get Aila stable enough for treatment, and over the next six months she went through four courses of chemotherapy.

Needing 40 blood transfusions over the course of her chemotherapy, the little girl had 25 separate transfusions for platelets and 15 transfusions for blood cells.

After finally returning home in January 2023, the family are now keen to make memories away from hospitals.

"She's started building up relationships with members of her family, as the only other person she could meet in hospital was my mum," Butler explains.

"She can play with her cousins and have people hold her for the first time."

Aila is now one and recovering well at home with her family. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)
Aila is now one and recovering well at home with her family. (Roisin Butler/SWNS)

And Butler says she feels grateful for those blood donors whose help proved so instrumental in her daughter's recovery.

"I feel so lucky that in this country we have people that donate blood for free, and continue to do it," she says.

"The hospitals can do incredible things, but the one thing they can't do is produce blood.

"It's just human kindness, other people are watching out for her without even realising."

Additional reporting SWNS.