Devastated family of Oliver James ‘OJ’ Brignall look to raise money for Leukaemia UK

A devastated mum and sister have opened up about their experience of losing a loved one to leukaemia as they raise money in his memory.

The family of Ashford man Oliver James ‘OJ’ Brignall are fundraising to try to help stop others from enduring similar tragedy.

His mum Michelle Atkins described her son, who died aged just 27, as “a pleasure to be around”.

“OJ was funny, he was the life and soul of the party,” she added.

“He had a huge smile and was very happy go lucky.”

OJ, who lived with Special Educational Needs and enjoyed going on holiday to Butlins among other things, suddenly fell ill after collapsing at home aged 26.

“One day in the kitchen he leaned his arm against the microwave, put his head to his arm and just dropped,” explained Michelle.

Michelle and Abby are raising money in memory of their son and brother OJ Brignall
Michelle and Abby are raising money in memory of their son and brother OJ Brignall

“When the ambulance came they didn’t seem immediately concerned, but over the next few days he continued to worsen, he was very tired and kept sleeping.

“Eventually we took him to the hospital and when they did blood tests, we found out that he had Leukaemia.”

OJ was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, a severely aggressive form that targets bone marrow cells.

“It was just such a shock, it didn’t seem real,” said his sister, Abby Brignall.

“It’s a very serious condition, we knew the survival rate wasn’t great.”

OJ passed away exactly a year after being diagnosed
OJ passed away exactly a year after being diagnosed

Exactly a year after he was first diagnosed, OJ was brought home to prepare for the end of his life, passing away just hours after getting into bed.

“The ordeal he went through was traumatic to say the least,” Michelle said.

“There were horrible procedures, including bone marrow biopsies, blood transplants that gave him horrible rashes and a lot of chemotherapy. The last one was simply horrendous as it had to be the strongest dose they had as the disease had reached his brain.

“Just before he died, he said thank you for staying in hospital with me, I know I can be a pain, thank you for putting up with me.

“I miss his wit, I miss everything about him.”

A fun day is being held to raise money for Leukaemia UK
A fun day is being held to raise money for Leukaemia UK

A year on from OJ’s tragic passing in September 2021, his family’s experience is motivating them to raise money so other families do not have to go through similar hardships.

“Being on those wards, and hearing the moans and groans of pain from the people there was enough to make me want to do something about it,” Michelle said.

“I really understand what they are going through, I feel that I need to do something and raise money for better tests or anything that can make it better for someone else.

“They might even have a cure one day, or at the very least, kinder treatments.”

Michelle and Abby are hosting a fun day to raise money for Leukaemia UK. It will take place at St Francis Church Hall in Ashford from 11am to 4pm on Saturday.

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