Gabe and Ollie may be brothers but they share a bond that is even more special.
When Ollie, 9, was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukaemia almost two years ago, doctors said he would need a bone marrow transplant.
Luckily his older brother Gabe was a perfect match, and at just 11 years old he bravely put his hand up to do the transplant and save his brother’s life.
“It was a huge decision for Gabe to make,” mum Felicity tells Be exclusively.
“We really needed him to do this and I think he felt pretty special that he had the power to save his brother's life.”
It was just before Christmas in 2015 when Ollie developed a grey look to his skin and his energy levels dropped significantly.
He was taken to the doctors to have a blood test, before his family received the devastating diagnosis.
Ollie, one of three boys in the Van Elst family, had Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
“I felt like a truck had just landed on me. It’s just the worst thing for any parent to hear, that your child's sick with cancer,” Felicity tells us.
Further testing revealed he actually had Leukaemia and chromosome 21, which put him in a high-risk category.
“It sucks, it really sucks and these kids have to grow up very quickly and experience things no child should ever have to,” his mum says.
“The oncologist said what they do with these kids is treat them more aggressively for a longer period of time with stronger and more toxic chemo agents.
“Hearing that, is pretty confronting.”
The family were given two options, one, have an extended more intense course of chemo, or, shorten it and have a bone marrow transplant, which would significantly increase the chances the treatment would be successful.
Just before Christmas in 2016, doctors advised that Ollie was in crucial need of a transplant in order to stay alive and after testing everyone in the family, Gabe turned out to be a perfect match.
“I think it was a very powerful moment for him to really feel like he could accept that responsibility of making the decision to say ‘Yes, I'm going to do this’,” Felicity explains.
Then it was all up to the doctors and the family had to pray hard enough that the treatment would work and both Ollie and Gabe would be ok.
And work it did, with Ollie now doing great. The transplant was a success and he now just has to go back to the hospital for monthly check ups.
Felicity says the brothers share a special bond, often having conversations between each other about what happened.
“I have seen a few little notes that Ollie has written randomly at home or at school that actually say ‘Thank you Gabe so much for saving my life. I really do love you as a brother’,” Felicity says.
Given the last two Christmases were basically “write-offs”, Felicity says they are just looking forward to finally being able to enjoy this time of year.
And she couldn’t be prouder of her boys.
“Despite everything, I’m really proud of the way Ollie was coping with everything in hospital. And I’m really proud of Gabe for understanding the importance of what this meant.”
The family are heavily involved with Camp Quality and want everyone to do a random act of KID-ness this Christmas. More info in the video above.
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