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Leukaemia survivor, 65, meets blood stem cell donor who saved his life

Karen Scoltock was found to be a perfect match with Gary Hodges, just months after registering as a potential donor in 2015.

Gary Hodges meets his blood stem cell donor, Karen Scoltock (Adam Fradgley/ DKMS/ PA)
Gary Hodges meets his blood stem cell donor, Karen Scoltock (Adam Fradgley/ DKMS/ PA)

A 65-year-old leukaemia survivor has finally met the stranger who saved his life.

Karen Scoltock was found to be a perfect match with grandfather and father-of-two Gary Hodges, just months after registering as a potential blood stem cell donor in 2015.

The 58-year-old’s donation – to a man she did not know – was a success.

The pair were brought face to face for the first time on Thursday, at an event organised by blood cancer charity DKMS.

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Mr Hodges and Ms Scoltock met for the first time on Thursday (Adam Fradgley/ DKMS/ PA)

“I just wanted to hold her and hug her and say thank you, but there should be a bigger word than thank you,” Mr Hodges said.

“Thanks to Karen’s selfless donation I can walk, speak, think, eat and drink. It’s her immune system that protects me if I get ill.

“It’s her platelets that help me if I get cut. It’s incredible – Karen is literally with me every step I take.”

Mr Hodges, from Hampshire, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) at Salisbury Hospital in February 2015, after falling ill while visiting one of his twin sons in San Francisco.

When you register to become a lifesaver-in-waiting you’ve no idea who’s waiting Gary Hodges

He endured several rounds of chemotherapy, but in June 2015 was told that his best chance of survival was to receive a blood stem cell transplant.

His three siblings were not a match, and doctors said it was also unlikely that his identical twin sons would be.

However he was found to be a 10/10 match with Ms Scoltock, who had registered with DKMS as a potential blood stem cell donor, having seen an appeal to help a young boy.

“I wasn’t on the registry long before DKMS contacted me. I was really shocked but really excited at the same time,” said Ms Scoltock, from Greater Manchester.

“I said to my husband that I felt like I won the lottery – I was really amazed.”

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Mr Hodges said the transplant had been “life-changing” (Adam Fradgley/ DKMS/ PA)

She donated in October 2015 by peripheral blood stem cell collection, which is similar to giving blood and is used in around 90% of all donations.

During the procedure, which lasts between four and six hours, blood is taken from the donor’s arm, filtered through a machine to separate the stem cells, and returned to the donor.

Around 10% of donations are made through bone marrow collection.

Mr Hodges received the transplant on October 21 2015, which he described as “life-saving” and “life-changing”.

Mr Hodges and Ms Scoltock wrote to each other anonymously for two years, and spoke for the first time on Christmas Day 2018.

“Elton John’s song I’m Still Standing played an instrumental role throughout my blood cancer journey, and thanks to DKMS and all their wonderful supporters, like Karen, I am still standing,” Mr Hodges said.

“Karen said she was inspired by a little boy she had seen on TV who needed a blood stem cell transplant. I’m an older man at the other end of the spectrum.

“It goes to show that when you register to become a lifesaver-in-waiting you’ve no idea who’s waiting.”

Ms Scoltock said: “It’s just an amazing feeling to be able to help save someone’s life and for me to be able to meet Gary in person has been mind-blowing.”

For more information on registering as a blood stem cell donor visit www.dkms.org.uk

PA

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