Scunthorpe leukaemia victim to celebrate Christmas with brother who gave him gift of life
A SCUNTHORPE man diagnosed with leukaemia is preparing to celebrate Christmas with the younger brother whose bone marrow transplant saved his life.
Steelworker Frank Robbins says he feels "glad to be alive" after his brother Robert stepped forward to donate his bone marrow.
Having had only a one-in-four-chance of finding a match in his family, Frank had been amazed to discover all three of his brothers were a match.
Now he will celebrate Christmas with them and the rest of his family after doctors told him his leukaemia was in remission.
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Frank, 51, from Abbotts Road, Scunthorpe, said: "It is a Christmas miracle and it is a miracle to find three matches in one family. I am just glad to be alive.
"It was the best Christmas present I could have received."
The bone marrow transplant is a procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells.
The new stem cells take over blood cell production and improve the health of the patient.
And Frank said what he had been through had made him appreciate life more.
He said: "Something like this makes you realise that things like bills aren't worth worrying about.
"You have to live every day as if it's your last."
Robert Robbins, 42, said he jumped at the chance to help save his brother's life.
He said: "I am just glad that I could help him. There was a worry he might not make it.
"I was never scared – I just wanted to help my brother.
"I would leap at the chance to give him my bone marrow again."
Robert previously lived in Grimsby, but moved to Scunthorpe to be closer to Frank and his family.
Rose Robbins, Frank's 71-year-old mother, said it had been very upsetting to find out Frank had been diagnosed with leukaemia.
She said: "I was devastated and it really upset me when he got really ill. But you never give up hope."
Frank has three brothers – Robert, Gary and Chris and two daughters – Vicky and Kirsty. Vicky Robbins, 23, said she was proud of her dad for the strength he had shown.
She said: "Me and my sister are very proud of how my dad has come through all of this.
"If I was in his shoes, I don't think I could have done it."
Now one of Frank's main goals is to return to his job working at Tata Steel as a ladle handler at the steelworks' BOS Plant.
And Frank said his workmates at Tata Steel had been very supportive throughout.
He said: "My colleagues and friends came to visit me.
"They wanted to give bone marrow, but they were told they were too old."
Earlier this year, six months after Frank was diagnosed, Robert travelled to Jimmy's Teaching Hospital in Leeds, where he had injections to increase his blood stem cells.
Robert had to have these injections for two days, in a process which involved him staying still and holding up both of his arms for five hours, while his bone marrow was transferred.
The bone marrow transplant took place at Nottingham City Hospital.
Frank had previously undergone four rounds of chemotherapy and said he was told he could not have any more.
Doctors have told Frank he will need to have a top-up of bone marrow, as currently he only has 88 per cent of Robert's bone marrow in his body.
Now Frank says it is vital people sign up to the bone marrow register.
He said: "I would urge people to sign up for this register because it helps save lives."
To sign up, visit www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/bonemarrow