Nigerian who Needed Stem Cell Treatment Dies after Sister was Refused UK Visa

May Brown, whose sister from Nigeria was refused entry to the UK to give her a stem cell transplant has died from leukaemia.

Mrs Brown, 24,  who had a three-year-old daughter, Selina died with loved ones including her husband, Mike, by her side last Friday 14 Jul 2017 at King’s College Hospital.

May Brown’s story, hit the headlines last year after pleading with the Home Office to allow her sister into the UK.

According to her family, the UK Home Office said it was ‘not satisfied’ that her sister, Martha, from Nigeria, would be a genuine visitor or had the funds to cover the costs of the trip.

May, Mike and Selina. She with her husband, at her side on Friday (Picture: ACLT)

According to Cancer Research UK, a stem cell transplant, also called a peripheral blood stem cell transplant is a method aimed to try to cure some types of blood cancer such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

When treating cancer, patients normally get very high doses of chemotherapy, sometimes with whole body radiotherapy. This has a good chance of killing the cancer cells but also kills the stem cells in the bone marrow.

Stem cells are very early blood cells in the bone marrow that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

So to go through cancer treatment, patients undergoing chemotherapy need stem cells to survive. Stem cells are collected from a matching donor. After high dose treatment,  the stem cells are administered into a vein through a drip to replace those that the cancer treatment has killed.

This is why Martha, Mays sister in Nigeria had to come over to the UK to help save the life of her sister. This decision by the Home Office, not to allow entry for Martha caused a protest and a social media campaign hashtag: and 

That decision was later overturned after the campaign and the stem cell transplant was performed at King’s College Hospital in London in January this year.

The transplant appeared to have been successful, but Mrs Brown relapsed in April. She and her family were told by her consultants last week there was nothing more that doctors could do for her.

As a result of the #SaveMayBrown campaign, thousands more people were added to the stem cell register in the UK and Nigeria.


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