State-of-the-art hospital unit opens

A woman who is allergic to water is just one John Radcliffe Hospital patient suffering from a rare illness to benefit from a new specialised blood treatment centre.

The Therapeutic Apheresis Services (TAS) unit, for cutting edge treatment to people with rare disorders, officially opened on Thursday.

The facility is one of seven units of its kind in the country where treatments at the centre is administered by apheresis; in which the blood is separated into different components before being removed or being treated and removed or being returned to the patient.

Nikki Hurst, 47, from Buckinghamshire, has a condition called Aquagenic Pruritus causing Urticaria, which means she experiences agonising pain whenever her skins comes into contact with water.

She said: “It feels like millions of hot needles are being stabbed into your skin. The treatment here has given me my life back.”

If Ms Hurst drinks water or gets caught in the rain, she is in pain for hours. The unit will provide her treatment, which involves removing and replacing her blood plasma every five weeks.

Sam Ovuorie, 19, from Banbury,  suffers from a life-threatening blood disorder, sickle cell anaemia.

The condition means his red blood cells form into a sickle-like shape, stopping them move around his body.

This deprives his body of blood and oxygen which leads to episodes known as a sickle cell crisis.

He said: “The pain can be excruciating when I suffer from a crisis. It feels like every single bone in your body is being broken repeatedly. It just hits you everywhere.”

Sam found out he had the disorder when he was five but has not suffered from a crisis in five years thanks to hospital treatment.

His treatment was carried out in other areas of the hospital but will now be done in the new unit.

Government life sciences minister, George Freeman, said: “This is truly a twenty-first century NHS facility. It will offer innovative, life-enhancing treatment to NHS patients suffering from devastating rare blood disorders.”

The TAS unit relocated from an existing unit on the same site into a purpose built facility last September and renovation work on the unit has just been completed.

There are four treatment beds in the unit accompanied by a machine called an extracorporeal photopheresis system which carry out the apheresis technique.

Oxfordshire patients who needed to have treatments from these machines would previously have had to travel to London to have their treatment.

Double cancer victim has been through ‘hell’

A Carterton man treated at the new blood treatment unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital has spoken of his ‘cancer hell’ over the last 14 years.

Michael Nolan, 41, has been cared for at the old unit over the last couple of months before it opened its new base last Thursday.

The 41-year-old is battling his most recent fight with cancer.

He discovered he had blood cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2001, which he fought off in 2004 after three years of treatment.

But in 2013 he went to his doctors after a car crash and discovered he had acute myeloid leukaemia.

Mr Nolan said: “I just felt a bit more ill then I should have been and I just thought there’s got to be an anomaly here.

“When I discovered I’d got cancer again, it was truly frightening for me. It felt like it would never be completely over for me.”

After being diagnosed in November 2013, he underwent chemotherapy for a third time and had a stem cell transplant.

Mr Nolan relapsed in November last year and has since undergone multiple lymphocyte infusions as he moves closer towards remission once more.

He added: “I’m not a negative person and my family has really kept me going. The cancer has been hell but I won’t let it get me down. I’ve got to keep thinking positive.”