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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 December 2006, 01:34 GMT
'I never gave up hope of a transplant'
By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Sarah Thompson
Sarah and her family recruited donors

Sarah Thompson bought all her Christmas presents early this year.

She expected to be spending the big day in hospital after having a bone marrow transplant for acute myeloid leukaemia, but doctors, amazed by her progress, allowed Sarah home early.

Just months ago Sarah and her family made a desperate appeal for a bone marrow donor - their appeals were so successful that they attracted about 1,000 new donors onto the bone marrow register.

And although no-one from the recruitment drive was suitable for teacher Sarah, there were matches for three others on the list.

Doctors pleased

Because Sarah, from London, is mixed race it has been harder to find her a match as there is a general shortage of donors from ethnic minority backgrounds.

She was told she needed her transplant within weeks as she was getting weaker and, without a perfect match, doctors decided to use bone marrow from the closest match on the register.

"While I was waiting for treatment they had to give me low-dose chemotherapy to keep the leukaemia in my body at bay. I was in a sort of limbo.

I am getting through this brilliantly
Sarah Thompson

"Then when they told me that I was ready for the transplant I went into Guys and St Thomas' and had four days of chemotherapy. I had four days of irradiation and then I had the transplant."

Sarah had been warned that she might suffer serious side effects as her body adjusted to the new cells, but she said that so far her recovery has been surprisingly easy.

"I had thought I would still be in hospital over Christmas time, but they let me home after three-and-a-half weeks.

"The doctors are very pleased with me."

'So blessed'

She added: "I am very tired, and need somebody with me 24/7 as I am very weak, but I am getting through this brilliantly.

Sarah and Mark Thompson
Sarah is spending Christmas with family

"Even though I have had a completely unrelated donor it has gone very smoothly.

"And it should mean the leukaemia does not come back, but it is still early days."

Sarah said she has been given another chance at life and can now look forward to a new start in 2007.

"I am just feeling so blessed. I am in a totally different place. I always thought I would get better. When I had the radiation I used to say these rays are making me better.

"I am not allowed to go into public places over Christmas, but I don't think I am up to clubbing yet. I think I will be having a quiet meal with my family.

"They said I could go to a restaurant if it was not too crowded as I can't risk infection, but I think I won't."

It is a bit like playing the lottery - the more tickets you have the greater the chance of winning
Dr Paul Travers
Anthony Nolan Trust

Sarah has vowed to keep on helping find donors for others.

A spokesperson for the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) said she had worked hard to find not only her own donor, but donors for others.

"Sarah, alongside her husband, sister and family, has worked tirelessly with the ACLT to help raise awareness in the black and mixed race communities in the UK.

"People from all over the UK have been touched by her willingness never to give up, and she has been out there on the road and in all weather conditions explaining how easy it is to become a potential lifesaver.

"Therefore it is only right and appropriate, courtesy of an unknown donor, that Sarah becomes a recipient and is given the gift of life."

Volunteers needed

A spokesperson for the Anthony Nolan Trust said: "There is a particular shortage of young male donors from all backgrounds and donors of black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

"There are currently 7,000 patients in the UK and throughout the world looking for a suitable bone marrow donor. There are too many patients in the UK from all backgrounds for whom the Anthony Nolan Trust are unable to find a donor.

"Quite simply, there are currently not enough volunteers on the register from black and minority ethnic communities in the UK.

"This includes African, African-Caribbean, Asian, Chinese, Eastern European, Mediterranean, as well as donors of mixed race background."

Dr Paul Travers, from the Anthony Nolan Trust, added: "It is a bit like playing the lottery - the more tickets you have the greater the chance of winning."

Full-back supports donor campaign
09 Feb 06 |  Somerset
Bone marrow donor could save baby
23 Dec 05 |  Southern Counties

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