Northern Ireland mum's hope for donors after stranger saved son's life
The mother of a teenage boy diagnosed with leukaemia has paid tribute to the bone marrow donor that saved her son's life and called on people in Northern Ireland to get on the register.
Miranda Rodgers' son Ozzie (16) was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in October 2018.
When he did not respond as well to chemotherapy as doctors had hoped, a bone marrow transplant was needed.
Unbelievably, not one but two people on the register proved to be a match and Ozzie had his transplant last March.
However Mrs Rodgers, who lives with her family in Magherfelt, said during the whole process she realised how few people here were on the register and how few donated blood.
Several times Ozzie and other children at the Royal Children's Hospital in Belfast had blood transfusions delayed because supplies were so low - they had to come from Dublin and England.
Mrs Rodgers wants people here to follow in the footsteps of her and husband Simon by donating blood and registering as a bone marrow donor.
She said: "Ozzie was diagnosed in October 2018 and had his transplant in March 2019, so he is approaching 300 days post-transplant.
"Ozzie is still not out of the woods, he hasn't been at school for weeks because there is so much sickness going about at this time of the year and Ozzie catching a cold or flu could be fatal, so although he had his transplant, there is a long road ahead for him.
"In order to get a bone marrow transplant you really need to be walking into the hospital fit to cope with the transplant and there needs to be minimal leukaemia left.
"When the donors were found, Ozzie had 50% leukaemia after the first round of chemotherapy and the second round brought it down to around 13%, and the third round got him into remission.
"To look at him, you wouldn't think there was anything wrong with him.
"But I have this fear it will come back again."
She added: "I just have to lock that away at the back of my mind, but in Ozzie's mind he is cancer free."
The family still don't know the identity of Ozzie's donor beyond the fact that she is a 44-year-old woman who lives somewhere in the UK.
However, they do know that without her Ozzie's outcome was bleak. Mrs Rodgers continued: "People think children's cancer is rare, but it's not, which is why it is so important people get on the bone marrow register.
"We obviously wanted to say thank you to Ozzie's donor and to tell her that by being on the register she saved our son.
"Donors are anonymous, so we sent her a card through the Anthony Nolan register.
"All we knew was that she was a 44-year-old lady from the UK, but we got a card back from her to say she was so pleased to hear from us.
"She told us the reason she had been on the register was because her mother had blood cancer, which I guess is similar to why my husband and I are also on the register now.
"This has been a steep learning curve for us as a family and it has been tough on all of us.
"Our 12-year-old son probably spent most of last year with his granny and grandad, so we are really hoping 2020 will be happier."
She added: "There were times when we were in the Royal Children's ward in Belfast that we had to wait on blood to come up from Dublin because there was a shortage of it.
"Even some times it had to be flown over to Belfast from England.
"So my husband and I also donate blood now.
"I hope people reading this will consider donating blood and registering as a bone marrow donor.
"It could literally save someone's life.
"I know, because Ozzie's donor saved his life."