Canadian grandfather flies to Sheffield to meet life-saving stem cell donor

  • By PA Media and Martin Coldrick
  • BBC news

image source, Megan Marshall/MM Photography/PA Wire

image caption, Tom Marshall (left) said it was an honor to donate to Mr Neander (right)

A Canadian man flew thousands of miles to Yorkshire to meet the stem cell donor who saved his life.

Rod Neander, who was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2018, said he found the chance to thank Tom Marshall, 30, from Sheffield, “overwhelming”.

Mr Marshall donated his stem cells to Mr Neander after he signed up to the 18-year-old Anthony Nolan register.

Following last month’s visit, Mr Marshall described Neander as “more like family” than a friend.

He said, before joining the stem cell registry, he had given blood many times before, but then he read a pamphlet on the subject.

“I saw it as an opportunity to help people. If I could do it, I thought ‘why not?'”

“do something good”

After finding out he was a match, Mr Marshall donated stem cells at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield in April 2020.

He said he felt “a bit of excitement and a bit of fear” when he got the call, but felt it was his “opportunity to do something good for someone else”.

The recipient, Mr Neander, a grandfather of three in his early 60s, had previously been diagnosed with a blood cancer known as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

After the donation, the pair had to wait some time to meet each other, as the Anthony Nolan Trust requires that there be no contact between patients and donors for two years.

Once that period had passed, Mr Marshall and Mr Neander began communicating via email and video calls, before Mr Neander made the trip from Canada to Sheffield in April.

image caption, Mr Marshall donated stem cells to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield in 2020

Mr Marshall said meeting Mr Neander in person “made me feel like donating stem cells was the best thing I’ve ever done”.

“Becoming a father has made me realize that time is so precious, and donating my stem cells to give Rod more time is the best gift I could ever give,” he said.

“The blood we share made us not just friends, but more like family.”

Meanwhile, Mr Neander said: “The chance to thank Tom, my stem cell donor, is overwhelming.”

The transplant allowed him “to get back to the things I love,” Mr. Neander said.

Henny Braund, chief executive of the Anthony Nolan Trust, said: “Our donors like Tom are incredible. I’m enabling Anthony Nolan to save lives through stem cells.”

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