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September 26, 2013
Taking the next step
SGT Andrew Kleef's son Nathan
was diagnosed with a rare immune
deficiency known as X-Linked
Hyper IGM Syndrome in August
Without weekly immune-boost-
ing transfusions of a blood product
known as Intragam, Nathan has no
defence against bacterial infections
which could damage his organs and
place him in hospital for months at
SGT Kleef, of 81WG at RAAF
Base Williamtown, said with the
help of blood products, Nathan,
despite requiring a bone marrow
transplant, was now a normal three-
year-old full of life.
"My wife and I have learnt to
deal with the challenges of deliver-
ing the immune-boosting therapy at
home and it would be easy to con-
tinue without thinking about what
could happen," SGT Kleef said.
"But as Nathan grows up his
body will become more susceptible
SGT Kleef said the oldest liv-
ing person with the same condition
was in his mid-40s and the only cure
was a bone marrow transplant. "In
late August, my wife and I visited
Westmead Hospital to meet with the
transplant team to discuss the pro-
cess," he said.
"Although we felt very well pre-
pared for the meeting, we were taken
aback by the mortality rate of 20 per
"We learned that if we leave the
transplant until he is older than 10,
the mortality rate worsens by 10 per
cent. Doing the transplant between
the ages of five and 10 is a better
option, but doing it before he is five
is even better because the body is
more accepting to the donor graft."
To make his body ready to accept
a transplant, Nathan will receive
high-strength chemotherapy to wipe
out any immune defence he has left.
The graft is then added, along with
"The thought of putting him
through such treatment is not easy
and we don't yet have a bone mar-
row donor," SGT Kleef said.
Although the couple's five-year-
old son was the most likely family
member to be a bone marrow match,
it turned out that he was not a close
enough match to be a viable donor.
"We now have to wait until
a donor is found from the interna-
tional bone marrow donor registry,
of which there are only 15 million
people," he said.
To be listed on the bone marrow
registry, people need to fill in an
additional form when they donate
blood. An additional small vial of
blood is taken and sent away for pro-
"Only one in 1000 actually gets
asked to become a donor for some-
one like my son, but having more
people on the register improves the
chances of someone being a match."
Donating bone marrow is not as
painful as people think -- it can now
be taken through a similar procedure
to a plasma donation.
Assuming the bone marrow
transplant team are able to locate
a viable donor, Nathan could be in
hospital for his transplant as early as
For more information visit
An Air Force member whose son relies on weekly immune-boosting
blood transfusions is encouraging people to join the international bone
marrow registry when they donate blood.
BRAVE FAMILY: SGT Andrew Kleef, of 81WG, spends some quality time at
home with his wife Tracy and three-year-old son Nathan who will hopefully
undergo a bone marrow transplant in the near future. Photo: LAC Craig Barrett
THE sight of blood and needles can
make people uneasy, but one RAAF
reservist recently overcame his fears
by taking part in the 2013 Defence
SQNLDR John Yialeloglou, of
28SQN, made his first donation
at Russell Offices in Canberra on
September 16 and said, as he suspected,
it didn't take long or hurt.
"I decided that having irrational
fears was no longer a good enough rea-
son to avoid this important community
service," SQNLDR Yialeloglou said.
"I also felt that it was inconsistent
with my leadership responsibilities in
my day job in AFHQ and, as a reserve
officer, to watch my colleagues regularly
donate blood and plasma while I stood
by was embarrassing."
SQNLDR Yialeloglou said the Red
Cross staff were lovely, and that there
were plenty of chilled drinks and snacks
on hand afterwards.
"My positive donor experience
emphasised how groundless my previ-
ous fears were and I wish I had done this
a long time ago," he said.
"However, it's definitely a case of
DOESN'T HURT: Nurse Tahnee Bell looks after SQNLDR John Yialeloglou,
a reservist and APS member, as he donates blood for the first time in the
mobile Red Cross donation bus at Russell Offices.
Photo: LS Helen Frank
'better late than never', so get out there
He said if people needed any addi-
tional motivation apart from potential-
ly saving lots of lives, there was keen
competition between the services for the
"Last year Army, with their numeri-
cal superiority, took out a well-deserved
first prize with 1191 donations," he said.
"However, Air Force wasn't far
behind with 919 donations, and took out
the per capita prize."
The Defence Blood Challenge will run until
November 30. Members are encouraged to
donate as often as they can at Australian
Red Cross Blood Service collection centres or
at mobile blood banks that will be visiting
Defence bases. For more information visit
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