'With­out her, I'd be dead'

> Look­ing her can­cer saviour in the eye

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

FELIC­ITY Gain was at the height of her ca­reer as a model when she was di­ag­nosed with leukaemia, and her world fell apart. For months, the 24-year-old Bri­ton fought for her life with chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion. Ul­ti­mately, only a bone mar­row trans­plant would save her.

Af­ter a long search, a suit­able donor was found through the stem cell donor data­base run by the Ste­fan Morsch Foun­da­tion: Siob­han Kirsten Mans­field, from the Ger­man town of Trassem, came to her res­cue, and Gain sur­vived.

Now, 14 years later, the two women are meet­ing for the first time.

Gain flies to Ger­many from Lon­don, and they both smile as they hug each other.

"I can only keep thank­ing you," says Gain, cur­rently aged 38.

"With­out her, I'd be dead. She pre­sented me with a sec­ond life," she stresses to a by­stander.

The Ste­fan Morsch Foun­da­tion, Ger­many's old­est stem cell donor data­base, has brought the two women to­gether, along with a score of other donor-pa­tient pairs.

"Many, many re­cip­i­ents want to meet their donors," says foun­da­tion spokes­woman An­drea Djifroudi.

"So such a gath­er­ing is a very emo­tional mo­ment."

Con­tact is al­lowed two years af­ter a trans­plant. Gain and Mans­field have ac­tu­ally been in touch for years by email and on Face­book.

"But look­ing each other in the eye is a very spe­cial thing," Gain says.

"We're go­ing to be­come good friends."

Mans­field, who is now 44 and works as a sec­re­tary for a Lux­em­burg-based bank, opted to help as "a mat­ter of course", she says. She had al­ready reg­is­tered as a stem cell donor with the foun­da­tion in 1996, as she do­nated blood.

The ac­tual bone mar­row do­na­tion pro­ce­dure was "quite un­spec­tac­u­lar", she re­calls.

"I didn't even need to take painkillers af­ter­wards. I only felt weak for a few days," she says.

The Ste­fan Morsch foun­da­tion has a data­base of about 450,000 po­ten­tial donors, and is part of an in­ter­na­tional net­work with al­most 29 mil­lion donors around the world.

Since it was founded in 1986, the Ste­fan Morsch Foun­da­tion has fa­cil­i­tated more than 6,000 bone mar­row trans­plants in coun­tries as far apart as the United States, South Africa and Aus­tralia.

"There is barely a coun­try where we have not sent a do­na­tion," says Djifroudi.

Gain, who cur­rently works as a sales­per­son for a cos­met­ics chain, wants to cam­paign for more reg­is­tra­tion by po­ten­tial donors in Bri­tain.

"Eng­land is very in­ter­na­tional. That large ge­netic pool could mean a ma­jor chance for many peo­ple," she says.

The chances of find­ing a suit­able donor among sib­lings within the pa­tient's fam­ily st ands only at about 30%, the foun­da­tion says. That is why out­side donors are needed, and they should share as many iden­ti­cal tis­sue char­ac­ter­is­tics with the pa­tient as pos­si­ble.

It worked for Gain and Mans­field, per­haps be­cause both their fam­i­lies have Ir­ish roots.

"I am now you. I have your blood in­side me," Gain tells Mans­field, and she holds her in her arms. – dpa

For­mer model Gain (right) from Lon­don and her stem cell donor, Mans­field from Ger­many in a park in Birken­feld, Ger­many dur­ing their first meet­ing on Sept 17, 2016.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.