Brave Nathaniel Nabena gives a huge thumbs-up to wonderful Sunday People readers who might have saved his life.
Your amazing generosity has helped to raise the £201,000 the smiling nine-year-old needs to pay for an essential stem cell transplant.
And, as he is prepared for the procedure, Nathaniel filmed a video from his bed in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.
He said: “I want to thank the Sunday People and Mirror readers for donating – and the British public.
“I’m going to have my treatment at Great Ormond Street. I’m very happy. Thank you. Pray for me. God bless.”
Nathaniel’s dad Ebi said: “We were so happy – at last we had a sigh of relief. We are not out of the woods yet. But this is one heavy stone lifted up from our hearts.”
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Tonight Simon Cowell, one of the stars who donated to the appeal, sent the lad a good luck video message.
He said: “Nathaniel, you are a very very very brave young man and I’m wishing you all the best and I’m really looking forward to meeting you in the near future…Lots of love, Simon.”
Nathaniel, from Nigeria, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia during a medical trip to the UK in November. But as he is not a British citizen he is not entitled to free care.
His only hope of surviving the aggressive cancer is the transplant.
Last week the Sunday People revealed Britain’s Got Talent judges Simon and David Walliams were among celebs backing him.
Nathaniel captured the nation’s hearts in a TV interview and his appeal hit its target by Tuesday, a day before the deadline.
The boy was diagnosed with AML during a medical trip to the UK to have a prosthetic left eye fitted. He lost it while battling another cancer, myeloid sarcoma, in Nigeria.
Sunday People readers helped raise £87,000 for three rounds of chemo at GOSH to get him in shape for the lifesaving operation, then a further £50,000 for the procedure itself.
Nathaniel was declared fit to receive a transplant this month – but the window for a successful op meant cash had to be raised by Wednesday. After that, his only likely treatment option would have been palliative care.
Consultants at GOSH kindly waived their private fees – which helped bring the total bill down from £825,000 to £201,000 – but a week ago Ebi and mum Modupe faced an agonising race to raise the final £150,000 in three days.
Their plight resonated with big-hearted readers and money rolled in from almost 11,000 donors, spurred on by an interview with ITV’s This Morning which followed his story in the Sunday People, to top £215,000.
Ebi, 45, and Modupe, 38, said: “There’s a lot of hardship at the moment and people are working hard, we know that money is tight. But out of nothing people still gave to Nathaniel. We are so touched.”
Simon Cowell, 61, and David Walliams, 49, each pledged five-figure sums for Nathaniel, with Katie Price and JLS singer Aston Merrygold both sharing his page on social media.
Mum-of-four Sharyn McInally-Johnston, 35, brought Nathaniel’s story to our attention after seeing a post by Ebi on an AML support group on Facebook four months ago.
Sharyn said: “Ebi had posted a picture of Nathaniel in an ambulance with a swollen face.
“I was immediately concerned and contacted him to find out why he wasn’t entitled to funded treatment. When I realised he wasn’t mistaken and this little boy desperately needed help, I knew I had to do something.”
The law student and retail owner from Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, added: “The Sunday People is the reason we got traction, it got behind us and gave us power we didn’t have ourselves.”
Nathaniel has had abdominal, dental and blood tests at GOSH, along with consultations with a physiotherapist and dietitian to prepare for his transplant.
On Friday, he was put under general anaesthetic to have bone marrow tests and a lumbar puncture, where fluid was removed from his spine for testing.
Ebi, a business analyst, said: “He was a bit scared but the anaesthetist started to tell him a story as he went to sleep. As a father you have mixed feelings having to subject your child to such processes – but you have to keep hoping and know it’s for the best.
“My wife and I are taking it one day at a time. It’s been a tough month.”
A match has been found using stem cells from an umbilical cord. Doctors had originally hoped to have a bone marrow transplant from one of his two sisters Nadia, 11, and Nicole, 21 months. But they were not a match.
Emma Hedges, Haematology and Oncology Advanced Nurse Practitioner at GOSH, said the clinical team is delighted he is able to have the treatment he needs.
She said: “A bone marrow transplant is Nathaniel’s best chance of treating his leukaemia and we’re all working hard to give him the very best care we can and get him ready for his transplant.”
Nathaniel told us he is tired after a long week, adding: “I don’t like going to hospital but I am feeling fine.”
He is resting up in Croydon, South London, where the family is staying with relatives.
They are set to attend an assessment meeting at GOSH on Wednesday, after which they hope to receive a treatment plan for Nathaniel to be admitted for the transplant.
“We are so grateful for the support,” Ebi said. “For now, Nathaniel is tired but he is in good spirits. We have a lot of hope.”