The greatest gift in life is life itself.
In 2010, my good friend Andy's life took a dramatic turn. This is his story of receiving the greatest gift of all - the gift of life.
One week I was opening a new business and doing the Three Peak Challenge, the next I had gone from struggling on the mountains to struggling to walk up my stairs!
Blood tests revealed I only had a third of my blood left in my body. I was rushed to hospital to discover that I had a potentially terminal illness called 'Aplastic Anaemia'. It caused my bone marrow to shut down, which isn't good as this is where blood is produced. This meant that I was left with no immune system and only kept alive with donations of blood (big thanks to all of you that donate blood and platelets).
We will never know for sure what caused my bone marrow to fail, but it is possible that a drug I took in Morocco to help with diarrhoea (which is illegal in the UK!) was the culprit.
Regardless of the cause, I was left with three possible treatments to save my life: drug treatments to ‘irritate’ my bone marrow into action, a family bone marrow transplant or a bone marrow donor transplant. Unfortunately, none of my siblings were a match and with an unrelated bone marrow transplant deemed higher risk, we proceeded with speculative drug treatments.
After the treatments failed, the search for a donor was on. Anthony Nolan, a pioneering charity that saves the lives of people with blood cancer, began looking for a match. After nine months of blood transfusions and amazing work from hospital staff to keep me alive, Anthony Nolan found a donor.
The transplant was a success and a donation of stem cells from an anonymous hero gave me my life back.
In 2011, one year after the transplant, myself and three pals took on a challenge to raise money and awareness for Anthony Nolan. We cycled John O’Groats to Land’s End - 1,012 miles from the top of Scotland to the bottom of Cornwall. On completing the ride in a lot of pain, I discovered that I had fractured both my shoulders - the drug treatments before finding a donor had caused my joints to crumble.
Now in 2016, with new and improved metal shoulders, my pals and I took on a new ‘bionic' challenge: The RideLondon 100 cycle sportive - a 100-mile cycle ride from London’s OIympic Park to Surrey and back (don’t tell my doctors!).
See how we got on by reading our post: The 'Money of Spit' Prudential RideLondon 100 2016
If you're aged 16-30 and want to know how to join the register to become a life saver. Just visit https://www.anthonynolan.org/8-ways-you-could-save-life/donate-your-stem-cells