Dad runs Leeds Half Marathon in gratitude for transplant which saved his partner’s life

11/05/2017

Lucy Holland-Selby owes her life to a man who lives thousands of miles away … and whom she might never meet.

Lucy, 35, from Leeds, underwent a vital bone marrow transplant just over a year ago – but may never find out the identity of the American who saved her life.

After being diagnosed with the rare disease aplastic anaemia, Lucy’s sister was tested to see whether she could become a donor. But her sister was only a 50 per cent match.

When the search went international, however, a 10/10 match was found … in the USA.

Fourteen months on, Lucy’s life is gradually getting back to normal and she has written to the mystery donor to say ‘thank you’.

Lucy said: “I have sent a card and a letter, but how can you possibly express the gratitude you have for this person? They not only saved my life, they stopped a family losing their partner and mother.

“To donate he decided to go through a general anaesthetic procedure to extract cells from his Bone Marrow.  It’s just incredible someone would do that for a stranger.

“I would love to meet him at some point. What he did for us, it hurts my soul; I have tears in my eyes even when I think about what he did for us.”

Bone marrow donors are anonymous; though either party can register a wish to find out more information and possibly be put in touch after two years have passed. Both parties must agree.

While they cannot do more to thank their donor personally, Lucy’s partner Andi Heald is showing his gratitude by taking part in the Plusnet Leeds Half Marathon to support the Bexley Wing at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, at which Lucy was treated.

Finance manager Andi, also 35, said: “The care that Lucy received was fantastic; we couldn’t fault it.

“I’m not really a runner, but I wanted to do something to raise funds to support the Bexley Wing, to raise a bit of awareness and to try to give something back.

“I’ve joined the bone marrow register and have been donating platelets for a while now. It’s just something small to say thank you for such a big act of generosity.”

Andi’s fundraising page can be found here.

Lucy started to feel unwell not long after having the couple’s daughter. Feeling exhausted, she put the tiredness down to modern – and family – life.

It was Lucy’s fellow students – she was training to be a midwife – who suggested she get checked out.

The diagnosis of aplastic anaemia – a condition where the individual’s immune system attacks and destroys their bone marrow, resulting in the inability to produce enough blood cells – came like a bolt from the blue.

Lucy said: “I had just finished a 12 hour shift when I got a call at 8pm, telling me to go to accident and emergency immediately.”

For over a year, Lucy had frequent platelet transfusions and blood transfusions whilst doctors at Jimmy’s monitored her condition. As her health deteriorated, they tried immune suppression treatment including ATG, a biological chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, none of the treatments worked and a bone marrow transplant became the only option.

Once matched, the US donor was able to opt to give the donation in one of two ways: via a blood donation or via a surgical procedure. Despite it being a more complex and invasive procedure, the donor chose the surgical route as for aplastic anaemia cells from the bone barrow have more chance of success.

After a couple of setbacks – including hospital stays – Lucy’s blood levels have now recovered and she is on the mend. While she had to give up her dream of a career in midwifery, she’s hoping to get back to work soon.

Lucy said: “It’s been a really difficult few years and it’s had a massive impact on my life. But thanks to the donor, my life has been saved and Andi has a partner and our daughter has a mum.

“How can you ever say thank you enough? It’s everything.”

Details on how to join the Bone Marrow register can be found here and details on blood donation, including platelets can be found here.

 

 
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