20 March 2018
It’s not every day you get to meet your lifesaver, and when blood cancer survivor Peter met the woman who gave him a second chance at life, there was a spark in the air!
This exclusive meeting was the first time that a patient and a DKMS donor from the UK have met since we launched in 2013. Following the emotional meeting the pair attended our ‘Let’s Make A Spark’ awards ceremony on Tuesday 20 March, at The Shard, London.
Peter Milburn and Aysha Lord embrace at DKMS Let's Make a Spark Awards
Peter’s Blood Cancer Journey
Peter Milburn, 56, a father of four and grandfather to three, from North Yorkshire, was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome on 4 February 2015. He was told his best chance of survival was to receive a blood stem cell donation. As none of his family were a match, the search began for an unrelated donor.
Peter said: “I was normally fit and active but I started to feel really tired all the time and thought that something wasn’t quite right. I booked a GP appointment and they took my bloods and I went home. That very night I received a call to say an ambulance was on its way. I was rushed to hospital as my blood levels were dangerously low and I needed an urgent blood transfusion.”
After a number of months of receiving treatment Peter’s health was deteriorating and the search to find his potential lifesaver became urgent.
Peter Milburn at DKMS Lets Make a Spark Awards
Aysha Lord, 40, a GP practice nurse from Rhyl, North Wales, registered with us in June 2014 after seeing an appeal for a little girl called Margot. She said: “Margot reminded me of my daughter as she had beautiful red hair and that really touched me. So my husband and I registered online but I never thought anything of it.”
Aysha received a call to say she had been identified as a potential match for a patient in March 2015. After additional testing it was confirmed Aysha was a match for Peter. She said: “I’m not really an emotional person but I got a lump in my throat. It really choked me to be honest. Just knowing that someone is going through this and you’re the only thing that can help them was quite moving.”
Peter said: “Aysha was the only match in the world for me and I was relieved when they told me they’d found someone. I was told that, without a match, I would have just five years to live but I think I would have been gone before that.”
Aysha Lord at DKMS Lets Make A Spark Awards
The transplant was cancelled at first as Peter was too poorly, but it eventually took place at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, in June 2015.
Aysha donated by a peripheral blood stem cell collection, where the blood is passed through a machine that isolates and collects the stem cells. This method is used in 90% of cases and the other 10% of collections are done through a bone marrow collection.
Peter said: “I was keen to get on with the transplant. I was thinking, I’ve got four children and it’s not fair on them to lose a dad. I was doing it for them and that’s what got me through.”
The day Peter had his transplant Aysha sent an anonymous get well card through DKMS and it was addressed to a ‘special stranger’. The card is proudly hanging on Peter’s hall for everyone to see. The pair continued to send anonymous letters and, in December 2017, they were able to find out each other’s identities. They have exchanged phone calls but had never met until now.
Aysha said: “You are picked to go and help this person you don’t know, you don’t know anything about but it doesn’t matter because I just thought if that was me or someone in my family I would want someone to help.”
“I will never forget when that tiny bag of my blood stem cells went out the door. I would donate again in a heartbeat and I would encourage others to register as potential lifesavers.”
Peter said: “Thanks to Aysha and DKMS I now have a few additional years to be a dad to my children, a husband to my wife and a grandad for my grandchildren. I’m so glad to be here – everything has been worth it. You don’t worry about the small things in life now, it’s brought me and my family closer and I’m glad I’ve got a second chance at life.”
How you can help
If this has inspired you and you would like to register then please check your eligibility and sign up as a potential blood stem cell donor today. Anyone between the ages of 17-55 and in good general health can go on standby to potentially save a life.