‘I can’t believe he’s going to be 18. We just can’t believe what we went through and everything that happened to him’

Jack Wheatley with mum Jeanette
Jack Wheatley with mum Jeanette

AT the age of three Jack Wheatley became the first person in Europe to survive a transplant for a rare medical condition.

Having defeated all the odds, today he celebrates his 18th birthday.

Jack, from Caistor, was diagnosed with immune disorder Hyper IGM when he was just six months old – and has come close to death several times.

Little Jack was forced to live in a sterile bubble and could not be kissed or cuddled because his weak immune system meant he would not be able to fight off germs.

But Jack, described as a “fighter” by his mum Jeanette, made medical history – and headline news around the word – when he became the first person with his condition to survive a bone marrow transplant.

“Two other boys had gone in before Jack with the same condition and didn’t survive. We’d got quite close to them so it was quite upsetting.

“But we were told if we didn’t go ahead with the transplant Jack wouldn’t reach they age of ten. The decision was made for us,” recalls Jack’s mum Jeanette.

Jack spent six months in Newcastle General Hospital, where he had chemotherapy and many other drugs.

His older brother Ryan also suffered from Hyper IGM and had a transplant after Jack, but died in July 1999, aged 12.

“Jack was a healthy, happy baby for the first six months of his life. But he turned six months old and a week later he was in hospital with double pneumonia.

“His lips and fingernails were blue. We were devastated. I knew what we’d been through with Ryan and I just kept thinking, why is this happening again, ” said Jeanette.

Jack has been left brain damaged, is prone to colds and has special educational needs – but this does not stop him living life to the full.

He was a pupil at St Lawrence School in Horncastle from 2001 to 2010 and now goes to St Francis School in Lincoln.

Jack loves swimming, cooking, is fanatic about cleaning and loves music, especially anything by Elvis. Known as the “gentle giant”, Jack is very helpful and caring to everyone and is always happy.

Jeanette, who lives in Brigg Road, said: “We were told he wouldn’t be sociable but you can’t get any more sociable than Jack. He’s never down and never cries.

“He still has to go to Newcastle every year for check ups but he just takes it as one of these things he has to do.

“I don’t wake up every day worrying but I’m aware that we’ve got to keep an eye one him.”

She added: “Jack is the light of my life and he makes each day a pleasure.”

Jack, who likes to look smart at all times, is celebrating his milestone birthday with a masquerade ball at Caistor Town Hall.

“I can’t believe he’s going to be 18, it seems like yesterday he was a baby. We just can’t believe what we went through and everything that happened to him. It’s unbelievable,” said Jeanette.

Jack supports various charities and is donating a share of his birthday money to the Bubble Foundation UK, which works to save the lives of people born without immune systems.