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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

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Alan marks 10th anniversary of lifesaving gift

A Bridekirk man has just celebrated the 10th anniversary of his bone marrow donations which saved a German woman’s life.

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GIFT OF LIFE: Alan Graham, who donated bone marrow to help German woman Sabine Stix, left. Also pictured is Alan’s wife Sue

Alan Graham, 55, donated bone marrow twice to German woman Sabine Stix in 2002.

Alan and his wife Sue put their names down on the bone marrow donor register of the Anthony Nolan Trust in 1987.

He said he had almost forgotten about it until he got a letter in 2002 saying he was a close match for someone in need of a transplant.

After blood tests, he was notified that he was an exact match with an anonymous recipient and went ahead with the operation.

Despite writing to Sabine after the operation, via the trust, he did not know her identity for two years because of an anonymity clause.

In May 2006 Alan and Sue, 56, made an emotional journey to Munich to meet Sabine, now 36, and her family.

He said: “On the first night we met her in a hotel and it was a very emotional time.

“The next day we met her mother and she just ran towards us, flung her arms around me in floods of tears and in German said thanks for saving her daughter’s life.

“It was probably more emotional meeting her mother because as parents ourselves we understood what it really meant.

“Even though we don’t speak the same language we got on like a house on fire and had a really good laugh.”

Six months after the initial donation, Alan received a letter saying that Sabine had contracted acute leukaemia for the second time and encephalitis.

Doctors gave her a slim chance of survival and Alan donated more stem cells.

Sabine made a full recovery.

The pair now email each other at least once a week and take turns to visit each other every year.

Alan returned from Germany three weeks ago from their 10th anniversary visit.

He said: “It is good to have seen Sabine get her life back on track and we are now part of her family. It feels absolutely fantastic.

“I was happy knowing I had given someone the chance of a second life but for her to survive and then get to know her and her family and get on together is beyond belief.

“I just feel so privileged that I have been able to help them.”

Sue added: “It is really unusual that the donors and recipients get on so well together.

“When you go to meet them you don’t know what background they are from but Sabine is so similar to Alan it is uncanny.”

Sabine is now working as an independent financial advisor after she passed a business and economics diploma in 2006 – a course she started in 1997 but which became a casualty of her illness.

Sue added: “We are really proud of her as she has done so much with her second life and not wasted a bit of it.”

Alan said he hoped his story would raise awareness of bone marrow donations and more people would sign up.

He said the after effects of the operation to harvest bone marrow under general anaesthetic were flu-like symptoms which lasted for about a week.

He added: “I know that a lot of people choose not to know who the bone marrow goes to, for whatever reason.

“However, for me it was a nice set of circumstances that came out of something so awful.”

l For more information about the Anthony Nolan Trust, call 0303 3030303.

Have your say

I carnt rember if geting asked if i wanted to no the person who i gave my bone marrow to. I gave mine wen i woz in training four the armed forces up in scotland. I would of loved to have nowen the person who i gave mine to i always hoped it woz successful and dat person made a full recover. Yours fatherly Johnconnor.

Posted by john steven connor on 28 August 2012 at 22:11

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