International media coverage and a celebrity backed GoFundMe campaign means the life-saving surgery for a nine-year-old cancer patient can now go ahead.

Nathaniel Nabena and his Nigerian parents desperately needed £200,000 in less than a week so he could have the life-saving stem cell transplant to treat an extremely rare form of blood cancer that he has been diagnosed with.

The story has been covered in the UK, their native Nigeria and as far afield as New Zealand, with UK celebrities’ endorsements and donations, catapulting the story into the national consciousness. As non-UK nationals, Nathaniel’s parents – father Ebisidor and mother Modupe – do not qualify for free healthcare with the NHS.  This means that the overall fee to treat the acute myeloid leukaemia Nathaniel was diagnosed with in November came to just over £800,000.

The final push for the already trimmed down fee – the surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital have waived their fee – gathered pace after the family’s interview on ITV’s This Morning programme.


Image credit: ITV This Morning

Hosts Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield reported that after the family appeared on the show on Tuesday the 11th, at the start of the interview the GoFundMe page was at £50,000 but donations from viewers pushed that figure to over £205,000 by the following morning.

The GoFundMe  page was created on 2 May 2021 and gained more than 10,000 followers.  With donors from Europe and New Zealand donating individual sums of nearly £25,000 anonymously, the nearly 11,000 donors surpassed the £200,000 goal by over £15,000.

The fundraising target has been reached and surpassed

The youngster, who is from Lagos, Nigeria, flew to the UK in November to have a £5,000 prosthetic eye fitted as his left eye was removed because of a tumour.  Before that could happen, however he was diagnosed with leukaemia and thus the family’s ordeal began.

In their media interviews, Nathaniel’s father has been the primary spokesperson and thanked “the great British public” for their support.  The attentive but soft-spoken youngster said he was happy to know so many people were donating to the cost of his surgery. He said the book provided by Great Ormond Street Hospital which explained what was about to happen to him made him feel more comfortable because he could better understand the process.

Nathaniel at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Ebisidor and Modupe pledged to use the remaining funds to help other families battling with cancer and intend to set up a charity for the same purpose in the future.

There are around 3,200 new acute myeloid leukaemia cases in the UK every year, that’s more than eight every day.  It accounted for less than 1% of all new cancer cases in the UK in 2017.  What makes Nathaniel’s case even more rare is incidence rates for acute myeloid leukaemia in the UK are highest in people aged 85 to 89 as Nathaniel is only nine years old.

Learn more about acute myeloid leukaemia here:

This article was written by Katrina Marshall

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