The Jewish Chronicle
Newcastle doctor on the stranger who saved her life
Over a decade after an anonymous stem cell donation brought her back from the brink of death, a Newcastle doctor met the person behind the gift
THEY MAY look like sisters but the woman who offered Nadia Stock the gift of life 16 years ago was actually a total stranger.
“It was a totally selfless act,” says Dr Stock, whose chances looked bleak when she collapsed while in medical school and was found to be suffering from aplastic anaemia.
“My bone marrow was not making any blood cells, I was relying on frequent blood transfusions and my immune system was so depressed I could not go into hospitals to continue my medical education,” says the Newcastle-based consultant, now 38.
At first the hope was that her brother, Adam, or sister, Rachel, could be the lifeline for the stem cell transplant she needed. “But neither of them were a match and parents can never be more than a 50 per cent match when you need 100 per cent,” she adds, explaining Jews needing a stem cell donor have only a 20 per cent chance of finding one who is unrelated.
Luckily for the 22-year-old student, a young lawyer in Baltimore was that perfect match and, despite having young sons to care for, undertook what was then a painful procedure in hospital to have bone marrow taken for Nadia’s benefit. But it would be more than a decade before they would meet — and a shock when they saw each other for the first time. “Looking so much like each other completely took us aback,” says Dr Stock, who reveals she and Andrea de Winter can both trace their families back to Poland but have found no evidence they are related.
It was an emotional meeting with the donor, now a mother of three, that had been put off for years: “I contacted her two years after the transplant, which is the earliest making contact was allowed and she did not reply,” explains Dr Stock. “But when I passed the 10-year mark I tried again and this time she emailed back.”
When Ms de Winter, now a mother of three, came to London for a conference the following year, Dr Stock and her mother Lisa, who lives in Manchester where she and her husband Paul are members of the Menorah congregation, went down to meet her: “I think it was even more emotional for my mum to meet this stranger who had saved my life
than it was for me but for Andrea it was no big deal. She had been a regular blood donor, and to her what she did for me was just an extension of that.
“It’s hard to know what to say to someone who has saved your life but it was wonderful to finally be able to meet Andrea and thank her in person.”
The two women have remained friendly, their bond intensified by the shared experience of motherhood: “I was pregnant when I first met Andrea, and when Hannah, who is now three, was 18 months old, we went to New York and spent a few days with her.” There were risks, admits the single mother, that came with pregnancy: “But I saw a haemotologist early on who monitored my blood all the way through and there is no genetic risk of passing what I had on to Hannah.”
Although she will not have the chance to follow her progress on television, Ms de Winter will be rooting for the doctor at the World Transplant Games, in which Dr Stock is running to raise awareness for Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity that put out the appeal for her donor.
She has done so well in the national games, picking up a gold and silver last year, that she has been selected to represent Britain in the world event: “Coincidentally it’s in my home town of Newcastle, where I first competed in the British games five years ago.” Members of Newcastle Reform Synagogue, where Dr Stock is a member, will also be supporting her run and are hosting the Israeli team at a special dinner.
Jews have only a 20 per cent chance of finding an unrelated donor