A YORK grandmother who donated bone marrow and saved the life of a little girl she’d never met, had a tearful reunion as part of a national campaign to urge more people to do the same.
Charnay Cairns was just two and a half years old when she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Despite two years of gruelling chemotherapy, her parents were told a bone marrow transplant was her only chancer of survival.
When none of her family were a suitable match, they turned to the Anthony Nolan Turst to search its register for a possible donor. She was matched with Carol Ward - who donated bone marrow without knowing who it would go to.
The transplant went ahead in April 2006, when Charnay was six years old, but it wasn’t until October last year that the families got in touch - eight years after the procedure saved her life.
Mrs Ward, 49, who runs Poppleton Road Working Men’s Club, said: “All I knew was that it was going to a young child.”
The families met for the first time in the new year, when Mrs Ward was presented with a scrapbook documenting Charnay’s recovery.
“It still seems surreal to think that something that I did, something so tiny, saved Charnay,” Mrs Ward said.
The pair were asked to take part in the charity’s Kindness of Strangers campaign, and travelled to London for a photoshoot and to tell their story in the national media this week.
Mrs Ward said she was keen to take part as many people are still mistaken about what being a bone marrow donor entails.
“People still think you have to have an operation, but there’s really nothing to it. It’s just like giving blood,” she said.
Mrs Ward said had often thought about what had happened to the young child she’d helped, especially as her own daughter Laura, now 25, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer just a few months after the donation was made.
Anthony Nolan facilitates three transplants every day, but is unable to help everyone who needs a match. It needs more people, especially those between the ages of 16 and 30, young men and those from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds , to sign up.
Charnay’s mother Joanne Cains, of Salford, said: “It is fantastic to see that people actually go out of their way to help strangers in the way that Carol did. Without her, my daughter would not be here today.”
Joanne Buckton, Anthony Nolan’s regional register development manager for the North East, said: “It is wonderful that Charnay and Carol have been able to meet. For a lot of people, saying thank you to the person that saved their life is a very positive experience and life-long friendships can develop this way.”