ASHLEY Cain has revealed more than 80,000 have people joined the stem cell register after he pleaded for the public's help to save his baby daughter's life.
Little Azaylia was diagnosed with one of the rarest forms of leukaemia, AML [Acute Myeloid Leukaemia] , last month and needs a stem cell transplant to beat the disease.
Ashley, 30, called upon his fans to help him and his partner Safiyya Vorajee find a donor - along with the charitable organisations DKMS and Anthony Nolan - for the four-month-old tot.
In a new interview, Ashley and Safiyya have spoken for the first time at their shock at the overwhelming amount of support they received and opened up about the turmoil they're going through as they watch their baby daughter fight for her life.
Former footballer Ashley said: "When Azaylia needed a donor the amount of people who came together straight away to order test kits, do the tests and then send them back, was crazy.
"The DKMS and Anthony Nolan probably get around 30,000 to 40,000 registers a year. We got 80,000 people in a single weekend.
"It's now topping 100,000. And not only are they helping Azaylia, they are helping the thousands of people who also need donors.
"Social media can be such a cruel and cynical place at times but this has made me realise how beautiful it can be and how beautiful the people using it can be.
"For that support we will be forever grateful."
Ashley and Safiyya are currently living in a hotel next to Birmingham Children's Hospital to ensure they can be with their daughter around the clock.
Because of Covid-19 restrictions the couple can not be with their baby daughter together so spend 24 hours a day with her on rotation so they can both spend equal amounts of time with her.
When they first discovered Azaylia was sick, Ashley said the couple were warned to expect the worst.
He explained: "When Azaylia first got diagnosed it looked really bleak.
"Me and you as normal people would have a white cell count of five. Someone with leukaemia, even an adult, would have a white cell count of 40.
"Azaylia had a white cell count of 200. Plus tumours in her lungs, kidneys and stomach.
"I am strong but having that news was something I never thought I would have to go through. It broke me. I was a broken man."
Azaylia has since undergone two rounds of chemotherapy and is responding well to treatment.
However she will need a life-saving transplant in order to beat the disease once and for all.
Ashley added: "Its very rare to have leukaemia in babys as young as Azaylia, she is the only baby on the ward.
"And she also has AML, the most aggressive type of leukaemia, which is even rarer.
"And what is even rarer again is the fact that she had tumours on her stomach, her lungs and her kidneys. And that her white blood cell count was so high.
"Realistically for her to have even got to this point is an absolute miracle."
Ashley and Safiyya also wanted to speak publicly to warn other parents about the signs to look out for after doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed Azaylia.
Ashley said: "We had back and forth to the doctors over the course of four weeks. She had cold type symptoms and we got told she had a blocked nose. At points we were pleading with the doctors to let us come in because we knew something wasnt right.
"Then we were told she had colic and then they told us she had constipation. We did all the things to treat that and then we noticed the mottling."
Going back to the beginning, Safiyya continued: There was an occasion four weeks after Azaylia was born when there was red spotting in her nappy.
I went to the doctors and they told me to keep an eye on it. Then a little while after she had a really bloated stomach. I called up the doctor and then I took them in for her first course of injections.
Prior to her having her six week injection the doctor gave her a once over. I told the doctor about her stomach and that her chest was really heavy, it sounded like her chest was rattling it was like she couldnt breathe properly.
Her eyes were gunking up too, to the point where they were really swollen. It was making her face then swollen.
The tummy was so hard, it was like a hard ball, obviously now that was all the tumours. They gave her laxatives to try and sort it out, they gave us colic mixture, they gave us a spray for her nose
To know a doctor has felt over all the symptoms that were there, and there were two-three-four-five doctors we saw. The doctor I sent the picture of the mottling to was an on call doctor and he was the one who said take her immediately to A and E.
The couple now credit Azaylia for giving them the strength to continue their appeal for donors.
Ashley added: We call Azaylia little lion, she has the face of an angel and the heart of a lion.
It is personally inspiring every day for us to see her sheer strength. Her waking up smiling every day, no matter what she is going through, gives us strength.
We also have to thank Birmingham Childrens hospital. We heard a lot about them before and everything we had heard was right.
From the nurses to the cleaners to the doctors, everyone goes the extra mile. They do incredible work but they also make you feel so at home.
Its those little touches and the extra effort they put into helping you which they dont get paid for. They all go the extra mile. To everyone on ward 18, they are just incredible.
If you want to help, you can join the register here.
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