Northern Ireland

Family of Strabane girl who died from rare blood infection announce 'life-saving legacy' in her memory through annual donor events

Holly Gormley from Strabane was 11 when she died in July from a rare blood condition. Her family have now created 'a life-saving legacy' in her memory by organising an annual blood donation event.
Holly Gormley from Strabane was 11 when she died in July from a rare blood condition. Her family have now created 'a life-saving legacy' in her memory by organising an annual blood donation event. Holly Gormley from Strabane was 11 when she died in July from a rare blood condition. Her family have now created 'a life-saving legacy' in her memory by organising an annual blood donation event.

THE family of a Strabane girl who died from a rare blood condition in July have announced “a life-saving legacy” by creating an annual donor event in her memory.

St Catherine’s Primary School pupil Holly Gormley (11) had first become unwell in January, bruising easily and prone to fatigue which her parents had initially thought had been because of her active lifestyle as a member of Lifford Athletics Club and Class Act Theatre Group.

She was later rushed to hospital for treatment where it was discovered she had Aplastic Anaemia, which meant her bone marrow didn’t work properly and left her seriously vulnerable to infections.

Ahead of Holly’s 12th birthday on Tuesday, her mother Claire explained: “She was open to every infection going, and these infections were potentially fatal to Holly.”

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After Holly depended on multiple blood and platelet transfusions from donors, her family are now working with the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) and their local community to inspire more donors.

Holly Gormley's mum Claire with a blood donation bag at a donor event.
Holly Gormley's mum Claire with a blood donation bag at a donor event. Holly Gormley's mum Claire with a blood donation bag at a donor event.

Holly’s father Gareth said he was “totally oblivious” to the high-level of demand, with Northern Ireland needing around 1,200 blood donors every week - about one every eight minutes.

Claire agreed that it had been a shock to see just how many families were affected.

“Gareth and I both saw first-hand when we went up to The Royal (Belfast Hospital for Sick Children) and to the haematology ward where there were sick children, and the amount of blood products that’s needed there is unbelievable, even for children who have cancer. We saw a completely different world up there.”

Holly's mum Claire, uncle Mark Kelly and auntie Geraldine Robinson outside the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service's 'Blood Mobile'.
Holly's mum Claire, uncle Mark Kelly and auntie Geraldine Robinson outside the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service's 'Blood Mobile'. Holly's mum Claire, uncle Mark Kelly and auntie Geraldine Robinson outside the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service's 'Blood Mobile'.

Holly’s aunt Geraldine Robinson, who is a blood donor, described how her bubbly niece had relied on the donated blood and platelets to get enough strength to endure chemotherapy and AGT therapy ahead of a bone marrow transplant.

Since her death, Holly’s family and friends have dedicated themselves to raising money and awareness for the Anthony Nolan Trust as well as the haematology and oncology units in Belfast.

In October, a major donation session was held in Strabane in Holly’s memory with a total of 117 blood donations collected.

It is estimated that each donation can save or improve three lives, meaning that the recent session for Holly helped over 350 people in Northern Ireland.

With the help of Holy Cross College, the family will now hold annual blood donation sessions to create “a truly life-saving legacy” for their daughter.

Holly's auntie Geraldine Robinson and uncle Mark Kelly attending a blood donation session in Strabane.
Holly's auntie Geraldine Robinson and uncle Mark Kelly attending a blood donation session in Strabane. Holly's auntie Geraldine Robinson and uncle Mark Kelly attending a blood donation session in Strabane.

Gareth said that it was a practical and simple step that people can take to help those suffering with their health.

“People want to find a way to help, ‘give blood, save lives’, says it all. We just want people to come out and give blood.  It’s the one thing everybody has and it’s the one thing everybody can give for free,” he said.

Claire added: “It’s so easy, it’s painless, free, you’ll feel great afterwards knowing that you’ve done something good.  We’ve seen first-hand what it does and how much it’s needed,” she said.

Praising the “remarkable generosity” of the Gormley family, Barbara Mullin from NIBTS encouraged more people to come forward as donors.

For further information on how to donate, visit www.nibts.org