Gary to give 'best ever birthday gift' to wife battling rare blood disease

Waterbeach couple battling rare blood disease

Gary Fletcher with his wife Bernadette, who was admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge after being diagnosed with Very Severe Aplastic Anaemia. - Credit: Gary Fletcher

A man whose wife was admitted to hospital after contracting a rare life-threatening disease is raising thousands of pounds to help fund potentially life-saving research. 

Gary Fletcher’s wife Bernadette, of Waterbeach, was diagnosed with Very Severe Aplastic Anaemia (VSAA) last December, a disease that causes the bone marrow to not function properly leading to no white and red blood cells and platelets being produced.

Bernadette, an oncology nurse at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for 34 years, has cared for many cancer patients and although Gary is unable to help her in person, he is instead aiming to cover 1,084 virtual miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats. 

“I have a choice; Bernadette doesn’t. I want to do something to help her and others that are suffering with VSAA,” he said. 

“A lot of people have said I haven’t had time to do this. For things like this, you make time to do this.” 

Waterbeach couple fighting blood disease

Gary and Bernadette at their wedding. Gary is now raising funds for the Aplastic Anaemia Trust after his wife was diagnosed with the rare blood disease in December last year. - Credit: Supplied/Gary Fletcher


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To tackle the disease, Bernadette, who turned 54 today, will be injected with horse anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) in a bid to produce more antibodies to destroy harmful blood cells in her body. 

It is estimated between 100 and 150 people in the UK are diagnosed with VSAA every year.

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However, Gary said the ATG treatment has potentially severe side effects and is currently waiting for a match ahead of a possible bone marrow transplant. 

“She has been a caring person all her life,” Gary said. 

“If you could speak to her face-to-face, you’d think there is not much wrong with her.” 

Gary, a project manager at software development company Prima Software, is planning to complete the trek by May 15, the time that Bernadette should be ready for her next round of treatment.

He has raised over £4,000 for the Aplastic Anaemia Trust and is now aiming to include the return trip in the same timescale, but there’s a more poignant message that Gary wants to send from his fundraising work. 

“I’m doing this not just to raise money for research, but to raise the profile of how important it is to give blood in the current climate so we can save people’s lives,” he said. 

“It’s a priority for me to try and save my wife’s life and funding research into the future is a way to do that.   

“We want to be pushing the fact that donating blood, platelets and bone marrow is life-saving. 

“Hopefully it will be the best birthday present she has ever had.” 

To donate to Gary’s fundraiser, visit: https://bit.ly/3a7AC6F. To donate a bone marrow, visit: https://www.anthonynolan.org/ or to give blood, go to: https://bit.ly/2OuiuM3

To learn more about the Aplastic Anaemia Trust, visit their website at: https://www.theaat.org.uk/

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