Donor Ian Burns has given the best present anyone could ask for – the precious gift of life.
The father-of-two helped save Melody Davies after he donated his bone marrow to enable her to successfully overcome an immune deficiency.
Last year, Ian and Melody’s family were able to meet for the first time and have become close friends ever since.
It is unusual for a donor and their recipient to get together, but what is even more special is that they only live 80 miles apart.
Ian, 45, of County Durham, said: “The first time I met Melody and her family I felt very emotional. To hear what Melody had been through and the fact that her family was at risk of losing her was overwhelming. Melody’s bone marrow transplant was a life-changing moment.
“To be able to do something like that was wonderful and to finally get to meet Melody was fantastic.”
Melody, six, was just two months old when parents, Lauren Travis and Scott Davies, were given the devastating news that their daughter had severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). The serious condition meant she had no way to fight off infection. Her only chance was a life-saving bone marrow transplant.
Civil servant Ian had been on the British Bone Marrow Register for a number of years before he got a call informing him that he was a match for someone desperately in need.
Ian, who is engaged to Angela Tarn, 42, and lives in Seaham, had signed up to the register on the year of his 40th birthday.
He was inspired by first-hand experience as he lost his mother, Maureen when he was four years old. She was just 27 and had blood cancer leukaemia, which can also be treated by a bone marrow transplant.
He said: “Donating bone marrow touched a chord with me as it was my chance to help and make my mum proud. To donate bone marrow helped me as much as it helped Melody and if I was asked to do it again I would.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved and I’m delighted that Melody is doing so well. I didn’t think that I would have such a strong bond with any recipient of my bone marrow.”
Melody had her transplant at Newcastle’s Bubble Unit in May 2008 and has been doing well ever since.
He mother Lauren, 29, of Castleford, West Yorkshire, was keen to get in contact with her daughter’s donor to thank him for helping their family. UK regulations mean that two year’s after a bone marrow transplant, the recipient can seek to make contact with the donor if both sides consent to the process.
Lauren, a support worker, said: “When Melody was diagnosed with SCID it was awful and I was absolutely devastated. A soon as we found out that a bone marrow match had been sourced for Melody I couldn’t breathe. I was so relieved and we were very lucky as sometimes a match is not found. If Melody had not received a transplant then she would not be here today and my life would be totally different.
“I feel like Ian is part of the family and we will know each other forever. I can’t put into words what Ian has done for us and we will be forever grateful.”
Melody responded extremely well to treatment and is enjoying life with her brother, Josh, eight, and half-brother Shayne, 11.
A bone marrow donor can be sourced from anywhere in the country, and sometimes internationally, so it was unusual that Ian and Melody lived so near to one another. But had it not been for the outstanding treatment of Newcastle’s Bubble Unit then Melody would not have survived more than a year with SCID.
Earlier this year, The Journal launched its campaign to raise vital funds to ensure that pioneering research in tackling disorders of the immune system continues.
The Bubble Unit at the Great North Children’s Hospital, based at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, is one of only two nationally designated services that treats children with little or no immune system.
Gill Johnston, fundraising manager for the Bubble Foundation, said: “I think anyone who donates bone marrow gives an amazing gift, but then to meet that person whose life you have saved must be overwhelming. I am sure both families will always share a special bond.”
To join the British Bone Marrow Register visit www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/bonemarrow