A DESPERATE Culcheth family is urging people to become bone marrow donors after their dad was diagnosed with a rare blood disease.

John Ollier, 59, started to experience flu-like symptoms in October and after visiting his GP, was told he had a virus and to take paracetamol.

After two weeks he was told it could be tonsillitis and was prescribed antibiotics but on his third visit to the doctors, showing no sign of improvement, a blood test was arranged.

Before his appointment, he was rushed to A&E on November 4 with a racing heartbeat and other serious symptoms.

The next day, he was given the devastating diagnosis of leukaemia and was transferred to Whiston Hospital.

A further diagnosis at the hospital revealed John had acute myeloid leukaemia and would need three courses of chemotherapy over several months.

Warrington Guardian:

John Ollier

At that stage he was very poorly, with widespread pneumonia and other infections as his immune system shut down.

After the first course lasting six weeks he was out of danger and allowed home before the next course early in January.

He was home for Christmas, and he and his fiancée, Anne, were married at the end of December after 16 years together.

John is the lead guitarist of classic rock covers band Black Thursday and the band held a fundraising gig for a leukaemia charity in December, before the family knew how serious John's illness was.

Two more courses of chemotherapy followed, with some good news at the end of the third session. He was in good remission and would only need to be a day patient for a few months, and then three-monthly checks at an outpatient clinic for a year.

However, the week before he was due to be discharged from hospital, his specialist broke the bad news.

It was already known that John had a genetic mutation that caused the leukaemia, but a further genetic test had flagged a new mutation, of which John’s is a rare form.

It turned out that the chemotherapy was not enough and now he desperately needs a bone marrow transplant.

His care will be transferred to Liverpool Royal Hospital under a new team of specialists.

His devastated wife Anne, said: "It was hard to accept the first time he was diagnosed, we couldn’t believe it was happening.

"But now John is facing an even bigger battle, his treatment will be so difficult for him. This journey is far from straightforward, and far from being over.

"Without a bone marrow transplant the disease will prove fatal for John.”

John has a son and a daughter who are both being tested to see if they are a good enough match but at best, they can only be a half match and the family are desperately searching for a full match donor.

Warrington Guardian:

John and his wife

In the meantime, there is a drug that may help but this is not available on the NHS.

One dose, lasting two months, costs £11,000, and he may need several doses.

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The drug would help put John in a better position before his treatment and improve prognosis for recovery after treatment.

John is currently relying on a fourth course of chemotherapy during the next few weeks to help him stay alive before undergoing the bone marrow transplant as soon as a donor can be found.

If you’re aged between 17 and 55, you can register at www.dkms.org.uk and request a cheek swab.

This can be done in seconds and will be sent in the post and donors are usually back to work the next day.

The best match is a white Caucasian male for John.

Anne added: "As a family, we can’t raise the £11,000+ on our own so we’re looking for individuals and businesses to help save John’s life."

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-ollier?utm_term=mrv6x4DkR.