IT IS the moment the Hannard family has dreamt of for the last seven years.
As 12-year-old Alex joins hundreds of pupils on the first day back at Meoncross School in Fareham, they are delighted to be returning to normal after a tumultuous time which has seen Alex beat the odds to pull through.
For Alex, today marks a new start as when he was five, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition which meant he had to spend most days indoors at home or at hospital
Something as simple as a speck of dust or a blade of grass could have led to him catching a fungal or bacteria infection, which could have killed him.
Alex said: ‘I felt poorly all the time. I couldn’t join in with anything; I couldn’t go outside when the grass was cut, I couldn’t go near damp leaves. Basically I couldn’t do anything fun.’
When he was diagnosed with chronic granulomatous disorder in 2007, he was one of only 300 cases in the UK and the future looked bleak as there was no cure.
Alex said: ‘After my transplant I couldn’t do much for the first six months as I had to be in isolation, but now I can go outside and do everything I’ve always wanted to do.’
Mum Louise, 43, is overjoyed that Alex has recovered. ‘Life is unrecognisable,’ she said. ‘It is completely different.
‘For the first time we have a healthy child.’
Alex’s father Dave, 42, is in the RAF, and the family has spent the past two years stationed in Northolt, Middlesex.
But they were delighted when he was posted back to Swanwick, meaning they could return to where their story began.
They moved into Casper John Close, in Hill Head, last month and Alex is looking forward to catching up with some old friends he last saw at Crofton Hammond Juniors.
Alex may have missed out on school, but the upbeat lad didn’t let his condition stop him having fun and he was well-known at Great Ormond Street Hospital for organising quizzes and holding joke competitions.
The family even appeared on Jeremy Kyle’s Christmas special and Alex’s story brought the chatshow host to tears.
Alex, who is now 100 per cent better, is eyeing up a career in medical science or as a vet and hopes to find a better way of completing bone marrow transplants, such as taking in bone marrow through eating food. He’s also hoping to meet the woman who donated and saved his life.
‘My donor was a 40-year-old German lady,’ he said.
‘I’d like to say to her “thank you very much for being willing to give me some of your bone marrow”. I’m grateful and I’d like to meet up some time.’
For mum Louise, who has also gone back to work at Henry Cort Community College after seven years, it’s strange to be finally getting back to normality but she is incredibly proud of Alex.
‘Alex was one of the trailblazers,’ she said. ‘He is the bravest human I know.’
Exhibition and book tells unique stories
POIGNANT images of 18 post-transplant patients are the subject of a free exhibition held to mark blood cancer awareness month.
Charity Anthony Nolan has put together a book and an exhibition of photographs by Stephen Pennells, which includes 12-year-old Alex.
The series of celebratory and life-affirming images show life after blood cancer.
Alex is pictured with his faithful companion dog Maximus, which he was given as a get-better present.
The free exhibition, entitled After, runs until Saturday at Menier Gallery in Southwark Street, London.
A book, also called After, was launched this week and shares the stories of the patients, all of whom have had life-saving stem cell or bone marrow transplants facilitated by Anthony Nolan.
The images include pictures of patient Lee Davis-Conchie who died last year and Simon Bostic, the first person to have a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.
Anthony Nolan chief executive Henny Braund said: ‘Every day I’m bowled over by the strength of our patients.
‘Explore our book and exhibition to discover a collection of unique transplant journeys, from the relief of receiving good news, to the stretch of isolation, to the day the stem cells arrive. And all that happens after.’
How you can register to be a bone-marrow donor
CHARITY Anthony Nolan is hoping that Alex’s incredible tale will inspire others to donate.
Will Guest, from the charity, said: ‘Alex is an extremely brave young man. We’re delighted that he is doing so well now and wish him all the best for the new school year.
‘We hope Alex’s story inspires more people to come forward and join the register.’
To join the bone marrow transplant register people must be between 16 and 30 years old, in good health and weigh over 7st 12lbs. The charity particularly needs more young men.
Once you are on the register you have a one in 1,200 chance of being asked to donate. The charity will ask you for a saliva sample, and if you are asked to donate the procedure is similar to giving blood. For more information go to anthonynolan.org.