TEENAGER Chelsea Brown spent months living in a bubble to prevent infection after contracting a rare blood cancer.
The 18-year-old spent six weeks in isolation on a hospital ward and a further three months in isolation at her home in Horden after being diagnosed with aplastic anaemia.
The condition means Chelsea’s bone marrow doesn’t produce as many new cells to replenish blood cells as it should. At one point she was only allowed to communicate with her friends through her window.
And she was not allowed to travel anywhere for a year while her immune system built up.
She had a bone marrow transplant at Newcastle General Hospital but before her treatment the slightest cut would see her bleeding heavily for prolonged lengths of time.
To show her gratitude for those who helped her, she is now supporting a charity football tournament being held later this month, which will see proceeds going to The Aplastic Anaemia Trust.
Chelsea lives with parents Donna and Ron Brown and sister Jessica, 14, in Horden’s Naisbett Avenue.
She said: “When I first got diagnosed I never had a proper immune system.
“I had to have blood transfusions all the time as I didn’t have any platelets and I would bleed and bruise easily.”
Chelsea was diagnosed in January 2008, when she was just 13.
She had an infusion of rabbit-derived antibodies and treatment appeared to be going well, but she relapsed after eight months.
Then she was put on a massive dose of steroids for two months. But her cell count failed to improve and doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant. She had to have a week of intensive chemotherapy, which caused her to lose her hair, ahead of the transplant.
While recovering, she had a battle to stay free from infection to ensure her body would accept the marrow.
Chelsea, who lost her hair through chemotherapy, said: “I was in hospital for six weeks in isolation on a single room on my own.
“I wasn’t allowed to touch the floor and if any nurses came in with anything on their feet they had to make sure they were washed with antibiotic wipes.
“When I got home, I was in isolation for three months and was only allowed contact with my parents, sister and aunt.
“I could only speak to people through my windows, my bedding had to be boil-washed and I could only eat pre-packed meals.
“I had no immune system at all and the bone marrow was trying to graft into my body. If I got the slightest infection it would kill the marrow off.”
She wasn’t allowed anywhere for a year.
“It was so frustrating - even if I wanted to go to the cinema it had to be late at night,” she said. She described the first time she was allowed out as “terrifying”.
But following treatment, Chelsea is now trying to lead a normal life and is studying a hair and beauty course at East Durham College.
Chelsea will be at East Durham Positive Futures’ football tournament, which takes place at Peterlee’s Helford Road Pavilion on November 23, from 5pm-9pm.
A maximum of 12 teams are needed and the £10 registration fee will go towards the aplastic anaemia charity. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07747 486880.