The family of a Tipton boy who received a stem cell transplant after a nationwide appeal for people to join the Anthony Nolan stem cell register have met the donor who saved his life.
Five-year-old Gaurav Bains has been through more than some people ten times his age. At the age of just two he was diagnosed with Monosomy 7, a rare blood disorder that threatened to develop into aggressive childhood leukaemia. Gaurav’s best chance of life was a stem cell transplant, but sadly neither his parents, Gurprit and Sunny Bains, nor his sister Kiran were a match.
The family launched a nationwide campaign to encourage people to become stem cell donors, and helped recruit over 3,000 people to the Anthony Nolan stem cell donor register, many of them from Asian backgrounds.
Thankfully, soon afterwards Gaurav found his match, and his transplant took place on 19 December 2013. Last month, on the third anniversary of his transplant, Gaurav and his family travelled to Germany to meet his lifesaving donor, Stefan.
Gaurav and Stefan's meeting
Stefan Richinger, 48, a customs officer from Unterschleissheim near Munich, has been registered as a potential stem cell donor since 1997, when he saw a campaign for a young German girl in need of a donor. Three years ago all he knew about the person he was donating to was that it was a young boy in an English-speaking country, and that he could be this person’s only hope.
In 2015, two years after the transplant, the Bains were allowed to exchange contact details with Stefan, and the families struck up a correspondence – leading to their first meeting last month.
Gaurav’s mum Gurprit said, ‘Gaurav wouldn’t be here without Stefan. We’ve met so many families along the way who have lost their loved ones and it makes you realise how lucky you have been. We’ve been so blessed, and it’s all thanks to him.’
The Bains family spent three days with Stefan, his wife Susi and son Max, 21. They visited a Christmas market and the Bains showed Stefan photos of Gaurav during treatment.
Gurprit said, ‘It felt great meeting them, being able to hug them and say thank you. It was overwhelming. The word thank you isn’t enough – we took along photos showing Gaurav in hospital so they can see the difference it made.’
She added, ‘Being on the register gives families hope. You might not ever be called on but just being on there gives hope to people.’
Stefan added, ‘It was absolutely fantastic to give Gaurav a hug and to meet his charming sister and loving parents. I thank God every day for the opportunity to have met Gaurav. The bone marrow donation is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever done.
‘I can only recommend that everyone should register as a donor. To be a lifesaver is a feeling which will last for the rest of my life. The Bains family is now part of my family and will always stay that way.’
The two families are planning to meet again before long.
‘We’ve told Stefan and his family that they need to come to the UK next,’ said Gurprit. ‘There’s a line of people waiting to meet them and thank them!’
More donors with Asian heritage are needed
Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘We’re delighted that Gaurav has recovered so well from his transplant and that he and his family have had the joy of meeting their donor. This is proof that the actions of selfless donors like Stefan can save a life.’
Anthony Nolan particularly needs more people from Asian backgrounds to join the register, as Asian people make up less than five per cent of people on the UK donor register. Because patients are more likely to find a matching donor from their own ethnic background, only 20% of people from Asian backgrounds find the best match, compared to 60% on average.
If you’re aged 16–30, join the Anthony Nolan register at www.anthonynolan.org or make a donation to our lifesaving work.