Londoner Callum Kennedy-Mann travelled to the other side of the world at the end of 2022 to meet the woman whose life he saved through a simple procedure.
After the 22-year-old forgot he’d signed up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register at the age of 16, Callum received a call as he was going to university in 2019. He was excited to hear he was a genetic match for a blood cancer patient in America desperately needing a stem cell transplant.
Callum said: “I didn’t hesitate in saying I’d do it after they told me I was the best possible match. It was instinctive for me, knowing I could have a huge impact on someone’s life.”
After medical checks to make sure he was fit and healthy, Callum donated his stem cells in London. A few months later he was able to contact the person he donated to and to his relief she and her family replied saying she was recovering well.
Callum said: “That was the most emotional moment for me – receiving a letter telling me she was alive.”
Two years after donating, Callum learned the patient was called Diane and was continuing to do well since the transplant. She had been diagnosed with two aggressive forms of leukaemia and had needed a stem cell transplant to save her life.
It wasn’t long before Diane offered Callum the chance to travel to Pennsylvania, USA to meet her and her family. Callum jumped at the chance and booked flights for him and his girlfriend to spend Thanksgiving across the pond.
“From the second I saw her at the airport, meeting Diane was so natural – I felt like I already knew her, and we didn’t feel like strangers at all,” said Callum. He continued, “I cannot recommend registering to be a stem cell donor enough. It’s an easy process that can have an absolutely huge impact on not just one person’s life, but their entire family and friendship circle.”
Diane said: “For my doctor to have found a ‘perfect donor match’ was incredible news… then to find out it was a young man from London who saved my life without hesitation was just amazing to hear. Callum is my guardian angel and to have the opportunity to host him and his girlfriend over Thanksgiving holiday was a true blessing. I am so thankful for Anthony Nolan and will be forever grateful to Callum for his kind and selfless sacrifice.”
Callum’s compassionate nature does not stop at being a stem cell donor, as he also spends his time saving lives as a lifeguard, often in cold water emergencies throughout the winter.
The charity Anthony Nolan is calling on more young men like Callum to join its stem cell register, as research shows men between the ages of 16-30 have the most success donating. Young men are selected for over half of all donations yet make up for just 18% of potential donors.
Henny Braund MBE, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said: “It’s wonderful to hear stories like Callum and Diane’s and to see that stem cell donations are continuing to create connections globally.
“Younger men, such as Callum, aged under 30 are 13 times more likely to be selected for donation in the UK, so it is vital that more consider joining. Registering is quick and easy – simply visit the Anthony Nolan website and after completing a short form you’ll be sent a swab pack in the post. It’s as simple as that.”
Anthony Nolan helped find 290 donors for overseas patients between 2021 and 2022. It is crucial more people sign-up to be a donor, particularly those from a minority ethnic background so that as many people as possible can be given a second chance of life.