The hug that says: thank you for sav­ing my life. . .


Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By JONATHON HUMPHRIES AND DA­MON WILKIN­SON news­[email protected]

THIS is the tear-jerk­ing mo­ment a dad shares a hug with the woman who saved his life.

James O’Don­nell, from Bur­nage, feared the worst af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with a blood dis­or­der sim­i­lar to leukaemia in 2016.

Usual treat­ments were fail­ing and James was un­der­go­ing a blood trans­fu­sion ev­ery week while bat­tling con­stant in­fec­tions.

James was run­ning out of options and de­spaired at the pain his death could cause his eight-year-old son, Har­ri­son.

But in a stun­ning stroke of for­tune, his saviour was only 30 miles away.

Leah McDougall, from Liver­pool, had reg­is­tered as a po­ten­tial stem cell donor on her lunch break at a pop-up stall, or­gan­ised by blood cancer charity DKSM.

James told staff at the charity that he would be up for meet­ing his donor, who could have been any­one from a num­ber of Euro­pean coun­tries us­ing the reg­is­ter. James, along with his wife An­drea and young Har­ri­son, got the chance to meet Leah for the first time at a DKSM charity gala in Lon­don.

James, who says he fi­nally feels like him­self af­ter a long pe­riod of ill­ness, said: “I was just get­ting chest in­fec­tions and wa­ter in­fec­tions all the time.

“I am quite a healthy per­son, and I was in good shape and I knew I should not be get­ting ill all the time.”

He said af­ter a few weeks of tests his was in­vited to take a bone mar­row biopsy and was told the dev­as­tat­ing news on his 40th birth­day.

The dis­ease meant James’ bone mar­row was not pro­duc­ing enough white blood cells, but doc­tors told him a treat­ment called anti-thy­mocite glob­u­lin (ATG) had a ‘75 per cent chance’ of suc­cess.

How­ever, when that failed, fear and doubt be­gan to creep in.

He said: “We are al­ways say­ing I would get through this, we were think­ing I would get bet­ter.

“But I started to think it’s not hap­pen­ing, it’s not go­ing to be for me, this.

“I thought, I have been good in life, I need some luck. We were hav­ing a re­ally hard time. “My son was four or five then, and it was hard for him hav­ing a dad go­ing from play­ing foot­ball with him to be­ing in hos­pi­tal.” Even­tu­ally, doc­tors re­vealed the only op­tion was for James to have a bone mar­row trans­plant.

The O’Don­nells went through fur­ther dis­ap­point­ment when tests on his three

Stem-cell trans­plant pa­tien­tJames O’Don­nell

James and Leah dur­ing their emotional meet­ing

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