Bone marrow donor from Leamington meets Canadian woman whose life he saved almost 20 years ago

Steve Carr meets Marie-Sophie Thibeault
Steve Carr meets Marie-Sophie Thibeault

A Leamington man who made a bone marrow donation almost 20 years ago has met the woman whose life his action helped to save.

Steve Carr , 54, was contacted by the team behind a Canadian television show and asked if he would like to meet 44-year-old Marie-Sophie Thibeault from Quebec.

Almost 20 years ago, aged 23, Marie-Sophie had been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia and, having failed to found a transplant match in Canada, doctors launched an international search.

At the age of 35, and expecting his first child, Steve received a letter from blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan that informed him that he could be a match for a patient in desperate need.

He travelled to London in February 1998 and donated bone marrow.

Over the next two years Steve received four updates about how the person he had donated to was doing.

Due to anonymity rules, patients and donors cannot learn each others’ identities for two years after the transplant but Steve heard nothing more.

Steve said: “My son, Luke, was born a few months after I donated. When he turned 18 I started thinking about the year he was born; I wondered about the person I donated bone marrow to all those years ago – significant birthdays do that, I suppose

“I had been on the register for three or four years when I received a letter which informed me that I could be a match for a patient in need.

“I wasn’t told anything about the person I was donating to but, as I was being discharged from the hospital I saw a courier for Air Canada. So I wondered if I had donated to a Canadian.

“I was back at work within five days. I was sore afterwards, but knowing I was doing this for somebody who must have been incredibly unwell was worth it.”

Anthony Nolan found Marie-Sophie a match and, 19 years after her lifesaving stem cell transplant, she wrote to Canadian TV show Deuxieme Chance to help identify her donor - so she could finally thank them.

After contacting the Canadian stem cell registry Héma-Québec, the team confirmed her donor was found by Anthony Nolan, the world’s first stem cell register.

The team at Deuxieme Chance contacted Anthony Nolan to see whether Marie Sophie’s donor could be traced after 20 years.

Luckily, Steve had updated his details with Anthony Nolan so in August Marie-Sophie travelled to the UK to meet the person who made her recovery possible.

Steve said: “When I received a call from the team at Anthony Nolan letting me know Marie-Sophie wanted to get in touch I was really happy that she was alive,

“I was shocked at how emotional meeting her was. It was a great experience, to see and hear the difference that couple of days in London made to someone who lives thousands of miles away. It makes it all worthwhile.

“You join the resister with the best intentions and then wait.

“Twenty years later I spent an hour and a half together chatting and had dinner with the person I donated to.”

Marie-Sophie said: “I felt incredibly privileged to be able to finally express immeasurable gratitude to the person who donated so generously in 1998.”