Pupils welcome Joshua back to classroom
by MARY MAGEE
Joshua Fletcher is welcomed back to Meadow Bridge Primary School this week by his classmates. US0811-112A0
A 9-YEAR-OLD boy who received a life saving transplant from his little sister almost exactly a year ago has gone back to school this week for the first time.
Joshua Fletcher was back behind his desk at Meadow Bridge Primary School on Monday for the first time since he received a bone marrow transplant on February 10, 2010 - his eighth birthday - from his 'designer' sister Jodie at St. Mary's Hospital in London.
He spent eight months away from home but was back in Moira last September. Because he was recovering so well it was expected he would be back at school after Christmas. But a chest infection in January meant he had to wait until after half-term.
For the first few days this week Joshua stayed until 1pm, but his parents hope he will be able to do a full day by the end of the week.
He was really enthusiastic about starting back to school," said Joe. "On Sunday he got a little apprehensive but came home on Monday as if he had always been there."
The Principal of Meadow Bridge, Paul Good, said it was great to have Joshua back.
"He was like part of the furniture," he said. "He has come in for half days to start but we are obviously delighted he is back again. He is very much the same and he has been very well received. The kids and the staff have all missed him.
"The family have come through so much but Joe and Julie just took everything in their stride.
"Obviously we're wrapping him up in cotton wool for a while but both the health and education board have been good with their guidance and everyone obviously wishes him well in his recovery."
Joshua was only six-weeks-old when he was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder - Diamond Blackfan Anemia - and had to undergo blood transfusions every three weeks to keep him alive.
Joe and Julie were told his only chance would be to find a bone marrow match. His older brother Adam was not a match and they then had to fight the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for the right to use a screening process during IVF treatment which allowed doctors to select an embryo that was the closest match to their sick son. As a result Jodie was born the UK's first designer baby in July 2005.
"Joshua was really looking forward to being back at school to be with his friends," said Joe. "We wanted to break him in gently and not make a big thing about him starting. He had a birthday party where he was allowed to have a few friends and they went to Lazerforce and then to Ed's Diner. He was nine on February 10 - and that was a kind of celebration for him going back to school too. We wanted to slip him back into school without any fuss."
To make sure that he did not miss out on any schoolwork he was tutored throughout his recovery at home and in London. "To be honest we were looking at this time before he would be back to school," said Joe. "We had thought it might be after Christmas but there had been episodes of the swine flu in the community and we were afraid to bring him back too early. We did not want to take the risk. "
Joshua is still on five types of drugs, but doctors hope he can be weaned off them. That will mean that he will only be on a daily dose of penicillin - a drug which he will remain on for the rest of his life.
"We are happy at his general health but we still must always keep an eye on it - especially if he gets any chest infections," said Joe.
While recovering after the bone marrow transplant he suffered a minor setback. He suffered from what was believed to be at first a chest infection but it was soon discovered that he had the condition graft versus host, a condition which is common amongst transplant patients and which, if severe, could be fatal.
"That meant instead of being in London for four months we were there for eight. But all is good now" said Joe.