Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 11:08 UK

Cancer survivor's High School Musical dream

Georgia will perform on BBC One's Tonight's the Night

Three years ago Georgia Cocking's parents were told their daughter would die unless she was given a bone marrow transplant. For eight weeks, a search was on to find a suitable donor.

Georgia's mum Debbie has been talking to BBC Northern Ireland Health Correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly about what it was like waiting for that call to tell them a match had been found and why their daughter is getting her dream wish on prime-time television.

Georgia Cocking is a seven-year-old child bouncing with energy. You only have to be in her company for five minutes to really appreciate the value of health particularly when it concerns a child.

When Georgia was four, she was diagnosed with myeloid leukaemia, a rare form of cancer.

High School Musical cast
Georgia with the cast of High School Musical

The illness took its toll causing her to become frail and hospitalised for several months.

The family were eventually told that Georgia's only chance of surviving the cancer was a bone marrow transplant.

It was a very difficult time - as her mum Debbie recalls.

"It was a living nightmare. Georgia was so weak and had lost so much weight it was a very difficult time for the family. The worst time was when she was sleeping, I never knew if she would wake up again," she said.

Blood tests were carried out on members of Georgia's family. None proved positive so the family placed all their hope in the Anthony Nolan trust to find a donor.

Several weeks later, Georgia's consultant told the family a match had been found somewhere in America.

Debbie said they couldn't believe they had to go as far as America to find someone to save their daughter.

"The consultant told us to pack our bags for Bristol as Georgia would be leaving immediately. We couldn't believe it. I had always been hopeful, but when the moment comes you just fall apart with relief."

As long as I live, I know I'll never do anything as important as becoming a bone marrow donor
Dr John McManus

The Anthony Nolan Trust is an international organisation with about 380,000 people on its register.

But with 1,400 people waiting for a bone marrow transplant in the UK, they are urging more people to be tested and become donors.

One such donor, John McManus, who works as a doctor in the City Hospital in Belfast, recently donated for the second time. He said it was totally pain free.

"As long as I live, I know I'll never do anything as important as becoming a bone marrow donor," he said.

"As a doctor I have seen it from both sides, those people who are ill and need help and then being a donor. I know I have had the opportunity to save someone's life and it takes so little."

There are two ways of donating bone marrow: it can either be extracted from stem cells from the pelvic bones, or blood from the donor can be circulated and infused into the patient's blood stream.

Blood stem cells then develop into mature blood cells: white cells which are needed to fight infection, red cells which are needed to carry oxygen to help remove waste from organs and tissues and also platelets which are needed to stop bleeding.

Georgia got to sing her favourite song on the programme

It's three years on from Georgia's operation and radiotherapy, and there is no looking back.

When the BBC One programme, Tonight's the Night, contacted the Anthony Nolan Trust to ask if they knew of someone who could tell their story, one young girl came to mind.

Georgia has fulfilled her dream wish on the programme, dancing with the West End cast of High School Musical.

She said dancing alongside her favourite characters was "just so cool".

"It was fantastic, amazing, brilliant - I just loved being in the dressing room getting my hair and make-up done; then to go on stage and dance with them was so cool. I loved it and London was a really cool place too."

Debbie said the family agreed to Georgia taking part in order to get the message across that donating bone marrow can save lives.

Of course Georgia got to sing her favourite song too, We're All In This Together. According to her mum, that couldn't be more true.

Tonight's the Night was broadcast on BBC One on Saturday.

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