A suitable donor? – Hollyoaks

I have to say from the outset that I am not usually a Hollyoaks fan and, as this post will show, I’m way off the pace as far as who’s who. However, turning on slightly early for the Channel 4 news on Tuesday 22nd January 2008 I happened to catch the end of that day’s episode of the Chester-based soap opera (TRILT code 007CA973) and was intrigued.  The storyline involved Charlie, a baby recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and in need of a bone marrow transplant. The first clip I caught was the doctor informing Charlie’s ‘dad’ Jake Dean that a blood test revealed he was not a suitable donor for the baby – on the grounds that he was not, in fact, the boy’s biological father.

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Frankie, Nancy and Jake

Recognising the potential benefit of this clip for teaching about transplantation and/or genetic testing, I decided I ought to check my facts.  This, it turned out, is more complicated than I had anticipated. So (deep breath) the woman standing anxiously by the baby’s bedside is not Charlie’s mum, she is Nancy, Charlie’s aunt (no pun intended). Charlie’s mum Becca is dead, stabbed in prison by her cellmate.  She was in prison having been found guilty of engaging in a sexual relationship with Justin, who was underage at the time. Despite the relationship being consensual, Justin made false claims of coercion based on his anger at being dumped by Becca. Justin is now with Katy Fox, Jake and Nancy are in a relationship of their own (keep up!).  Knowing about Becca’s infidelity with Justin, Jake had ordered a paternity test in January 2007, but decided not to open it, choosing instead to remain in ignorance and bring up Charlie assuming that he was the biological father.  This latest turn in the story shows that he is not.

So, with that complicated backstory, is there any real scope for using Hollyoaks in teaching? I think that there is, not least because Hollyoaks is popular with teenagers and students, exactly the cohort we are hoping to engage in ethical debate. Having got a taste for it, I also watched the next episode (23rd January, TRILT code 007C8A2E). In terms of useable clips, I suspect the latter may provide the best material. The action cuts at frenetic pace between three different subplots, of which Charlie’s predicament is only one.  In a 60 second clip starting a minute into the episode, Jake tries to convince the doctor, and himself, that the blood test must be wrong. At 03:30 there is a further 90 second clip where the doctor explains the importance of contacting the biological father to see if he can be a donor. A third section, starting 08:20 for 1 min 40, Jake and his mum Frankie discuss the fact that he didn’t follow through on the paternity test.  10:50, Nancy goes to find Justin and tells him he is Charlie’s father.  It is Justin’s girlfriend Katy who persuades him to go and help. 23:30, Justin’s bone marrow is a match. 25:00, Jake pours out his angst that he now has no connection to the child.

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