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Bedfordshire Police officer reunited with stem cell recipient

26 Nov 2019

A Bedfordshire Police officer has been reunited with a woman whose life he saved after donating stem cells four years ago. 

Beatrice, a mother of two, from Palm Springs, California, was diagnosed with Myelofibrosis at the age of 23. The condition is a rare type of blood cancer which leads to leukaemia.

She has been living with the condition for the majority of her adult life, managing the symptoms with medication and waiting for a donor match, as this is the only known treatment for this condition. 

Her ethnic background – Beatrice is half European and half Vietnamese - meant that the chance of finding a match was extremely unlikely, and after years of searching in 2008 she gave up on ever finding a donor to focus her time on taking care of her young children. This was two months before PC Andrew Harris joined the register. 

Over time her health began to deteriorate and she was in desperate need of a stem cell donation to save her life. 

So in 2015, when she was about to enter into palliative care, her health care provider ran one last check on the donor register and she received the most welcome news. 

There was a perfect genetic match on a donor list – a police officer, PC Harris, from the United Kingdom.

At the same time the news came through, Beatrice’s condition had deteriorated and she was very poorly. Thankfully, her health improved enough to get through the transplant procedure. 

The transplant was successful and after the two year waiting period, Beatrice and Andrew got in touch through Skype. 

 

They have stayed in touch over time and met in person in London a month ago.

PC Harris signed up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell donor register in 2008 when he joined the Metropolitan Police and has since transferred into Bedfordshire Police. 

He said: “When I joined and we were visited by the representative from the charity I didn’t think twice about it. I provided a sample not expecting to ever be someone’s match. 

“When I was contacted and informed about this match I didn’t hesitate for a second. I joined the police because I always wanted to help people and this wasn’t any different.

“The preparation for the procedure was painless and was done by my doctor and a local nurse. I was given injections for a period of five days to release stem cells into my bloodstream. 

“After that my stem cells were collected through a special machine similar to a dialysis machine, which was filtering them out of my bloodstream. This was done under local anaesthesia and was completely painless. 

“If felt unreal when I finally got to meet Beatrice over Skype after the two year waiting period. There was a sense of pride from my side and it was an extremely emotional moment for both of us.

“Since then we have stayed in touch but we only got to meet in person last month.

“It was amazing to meet her and her family. Beatrice is such a strong character and to think that only couple of years ago she and her children were preparing to enter palliative care. She is now committed to spreading awareness of how important it is to register as a donor. It is not only one life that’s been saved; it is also her family and loved ones who get to keep their daughter, mum and friend.

“Our force is working with the local charity and we invite them regularly to events, during which you can join the stem cell register. I would like to encourage everyone who is eligible to sign up; you can be someone’s last hope and save their life.”

People aged between 16 and 30 who are in good general health can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register at www.anthonynolan.org (you’ll stay on it until you turn 61). 

The charity will send you a swab pack in the post so that you can do a cheek swab, which you should return to the charity. Whenever a patient with blood cancer or a blood disorder needs a lifesaving stem cell transplant, Anthony Nolan searches the register, looking for someone who is a genetic match for that patient. 

If you are found to be a match the charity will be in touch, and will ask you to donate if you’re still healthy and happy to do so.

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