Cancer teen Josh Martin pays tribute to blood donors for the gift of life
A teenager who captured people's hearts throughout the world as he battled cancer took time out yesterday to help others.
Josh Martin from Co Down called at a blood donor session organised by his church to say thanks to those who donated to help cancer patients like him.
The 14-year-old from Donaghadee has returned to school following nine months of surgery and extensive chemotherapy for multiple tumours discovered in his abdomen last Christmas Eve.
The #prayforjosh social media campaign was started by Bangor Elim Church in support of Josh and his family as his father Tim, is a pastor at the church. As the online appeal reached millions, prayers were said at home and abroad for Josh's recovery.
The faith campaign quickly gained international momentum with major sports stars Rory McIlroy and Serigo Garcia and Piers Morgan and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness posting messages of support to all their fans for the teenager.
Josh and his parents Tim and Kim are devout Christians and continue to believe he can be cured, despite an original diagnosis that some of the tumours were inoperable.
Despite the bad news, Josh faced the battle for life head-on with a positive attitude.
He urgently needed two pints of blood after five chemo sessions and then two transfusions of platelets as his condition dipped and later stabilised over the last few months. Last night, it looked like Bangor Elim was well on its way to making 100 new donations after 44 donors gave blood earlier in the day.
Josh told the Belfast Telegraph: "I would really like to encourage people to give blood as it really helped me and I know it will help so many other people.
"I'm very, very thankful about this blood donation session as I know how good I felt after I got a transfusion when I was feeling really sick.
"The next morning afterwards I felt much better. I was even a bit hyper and could walk about the ward even though I was in a wheelchair normally.
"It's strange to think I have 10 people's blood and two people's platelets in my body but I'm so glad that people I don't even know helped me. This blood will help others like me."
He also spoke movingly of how he was encouraged in his fight by the support he received.
"I remember one morning I woke up and I hadn't been on Facebook or any social media for a month or six weeks. I had so many notifications of people praying for me. There were private messages of support for me and I felt very encouraged."
Josh said that he loved being back at school, Bangor Grammar, which he attends with his brother David. He said: "It's great to see my friends again but it's quite tiring. I'm going in some days and some days I'm not. But it's good to be back to normal again and not having to worry about the past."
Josh's principal, Elizabeth Huddleson, pledged last night to also give blood in thanks for the blood Josh received. "Joshua Martin is truly an inspiration and a walking reminder that life on a daily basis is to be embraced and cherished," said Ms Huddleson.
Information on how to donate blood is available at www.nibts.org or text BLOOD RWC to 60081