The effects of chemotherapy couldn’t stop Archie Lowe celebrating his seventh birthday.
The little lad from Drayton marked the occasion with close family and dad Scott says his son was ‘spoiled rotten’.
But wind the clock back almost six years and Archie was battling for survival, in desperate need of a liver transplant – an operation which has led to his fight against cancer now.
Archie had just turned one, but was desperately ill and still weeks away from an operation that would save his life.
Scott, 30, says: ‘When Archie was born he was healthy for the first few weeks, but we noticed a change and he started to grow a bit jaundiced.
‘His skin was getting yellow. It was a pretty scary thing to see.’
Worried, Scott and partner Claire Graf rushed Archie to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham.
Several tests later and Archie’s problem was revealed – which would have life-long consequences for the young couple’s ambition for more children.
Unbeknown to the pair, they were both carriers of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency – a genetic condition which can cause serious damage to the liver.
The disorder affects between one and two per cent of the population.
‘It was incredibly rare for both of us to have this. We couldn’t believe it,’ Scott admits.
Archie was placed on the transplant list. Claire and Scott got the call they were waiting for in 2011.
On January 30, 2011, Archie successfully underwent a liver transplant operation.
‘We were so relieved,’ Scott says.
‘The woman who was a donor was a 20-year-old – that’s all we knew.
‘We were so thankful, we wrote to her family to say to them how much it meant. We will always be grateful for what she did.’
Archie was placed on a strict regime of medication to make sure his body didn’t reject his new organ.
The drugs lowered his body’s natural immune system – leaving him vulnerable to viruses and diseases.
It prompted many trips from their former home in Cosham to the QA.
Scott says: ‘We were always wary of his health and that he may have to go to hospital. Being in and out of hospital has been part of our life. It’s almost been like a second home.
‘We’re always looking out for any signs to make sure he doesn’t catch an illness.’
Despite Archie’s fragile condition, he grew into a happy youngster who loved a game of football with friends. He even joined a team run by Pompey in the Community.
The family’s life began to return to normal, with Scott and Claire soon wanting another child.
But it wasn’t as simple as they had hoped. Scott says: ‘We had genetic IVF treatment to conceive our second child, Amber, to make sure she didn’t have the same condition as Archie.
‘It’s been a rollercoaster, but it’s all been worth it. We would do anything for our children.’
But the family’s life was thrown into turmoil after Claire noticed a lump on Archie’s neck late last year.
‘We thought it might just have been a reaction to him falling ill,’ says full-time mum Claire, 31.
‘We thought he might just have had a fever or something.’
However, a biopsy revealed Archie had contracted a rare form of cancer.
Known as Hodgkin-type post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, or PTLD for short, the condition affects less than one per cent of children involved in transplants.
Archie was diagnosed with cancer on November 1, 2016 – a moment that his parents will never forget.
Scott says: ‘It was devastating when the diagnosis came through.
‘It was so upsetting. When you think of cancer you think of the worst case scenario.
‘But the consultant was really positive, pretty much convinced that we’re going to be okay.’
Archie is on his second bout of chemotherapy, which has caused his hair to fall out. But his family is hopeful this last batch will be it.
‘Archie’s reacted pretty positively,’ adds self-employed electrical tester Scott, of Station Road, Drayton.
He adds: ‘Archie has been fighting all his life. He just gets on with it.
‘He is always happy. This is just his life and all he knows.
‘He has dealt with it like a champion. He just amazes us every day.
‘He is the best son we could have asked for. Of course he could be healthier. But he is our son and we love him no matter what.’
The family still has a long road to go until Archie is fit and healthy.
But they are speaking out today, ahead of the sixth anniversary of his transplant, to urge more people to sign up as donors.
Claire and Scott are both donors and have already encouraged family and friends to sign up too.
Scott says: ‘There are so many people that are waiting for a donor.
‘It’s so important to get more people to be a donor.
‘Being a donor can be life-saving. It’s such a selfless act – you’re doing one final act to help save someone. It’s incredible.’
There are 6,375 people on the transplant waiting list in the UK.
To become a donor, see organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.
ARCHIE TO BE POMPEY MASCOT
POMPEY-mad Archie Lowe is set to meet his footballing heroes after Portsmouth FC heard of the brave youngster’s plight.
The seven-year-old has been forced to stop playing football for a Pompey in the Community team after being diagnosed with cancer last year.
So to brighten up his life, family friend Ben Harrow, of Landport, set up a crowdfunding appeal to pay for Archie to become a mascot and walk out with the Blues at Fratton Park when he is better.
Ben, a soldier with the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, says: ‘He has never been to a Pompey game. He is such a lovely little lad who is always happy and always has a big smile on his face. He deserves it.’
But when club officials at Fratton Park got wind of the appeal, they offered Archie a chance to become a mascot for the day – free of charge.
Archie is being given the gold package, meaning he’ll meet players before the game, as well as getting a signed shirt from the club.
Fiona Bristow, mascot, media and marketing co-ordinator with Pompey in the Community, said the club was ‘more than happy’ to offer the seven-year-old a mascot place after hearing about Ben’s crowdfunding campaign.
She adds: ‘Archie is a big Pompey fan and was attending a Pompey in the Community afterschool club up until November last year, so we thought it was the least we could do.’
Archie and his family will be special guests during a Pompey home game later this year.