A schoolgirl from Bidford-on-Avon has met the selfless stranger who saved her life by donating bone marrow to her when she had a rare form of leukaemia.
Esme Clayson, seven, met Andreas Haber, 30, on Saturday after he came over from Germany to see her.
Watch their meeting below (footage courtesy of ITV):
Esme’s mother, Naomi Clayson, said: “Meeting Andreas was just amazing. It is difficult to describe in words exactly how it felt, but I can say it is wonderful to be able to thank him in person for what he has done for us; not just for saving Esme, but for saving our family.
“Thanks to him we still have a daughter and Jack still has a sister, and for that we will be forever grateful.”
Esme and Andreas
Esme was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia, called juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML), in 2011 when she was just three-years-old.
Her parents, Naomi and Grant, were told that she would need a bone marrow transplant from a stranger to survive.
Naomi said: “I was completely devastated when she got diagnosed. My husband and I were tested, as was our son Jack, to see if we were matches for her. It was devastating when we learned we weren’t matches. There was then a lot of fear – not knowing if anyone would be able to help us.”
Esme in an award-winning photo taken by her mother
Fortunately, we were able to find a matching donor for Esme in Germany and the transplant went ahead in 2011 when she was still just three-years-old.
However, the transplant didn’t work and Esme became dangerously ill, ending up in intensive care.
She required a second transplant from the same donor in May 2012, six months after the first transplant.
Thankfully, this transplant was a success and Esme is now a happy, healthy child.
Naomi said: “After everything Esme has been through, she takes our breath away. She is now looking better than ever and is a happy, giggly little girl.”
Esme in 2015
After a stem cell transplant, the donor and patient are not able to learn each other’s names for at least two years so it wasn’t until last year that Esme and her family learnt the identity of her lifesaver.
Naomi exchanged messages and photographs with Andreas, who is from Berlin, and they agreed they would like to meet each other.
As a result, Andreas and his wife, Jule, 26, came to Warwickshire on Saturday to spend a week with Esme and her family.
Naomi said: “Esme was really excited about meeting Andreas. When she met him she was very quiet but has warmed to him so much, they have such a lovely relationship. Esme finds Andreas so much fun, they laugh together so much.”
Esme, Andreas and Jules
She added: “We have learnt that Andreas joined the register as a result of hearing of a four-year-old boy in Germany with leukaemia. If it wasn't for his act of kindness I wouldn't like to think where we would be today. He is such a kind and warm-hearted person, he will always be our hero.”
Andreas said: “It was no great effort for me to donate, but the result is great.
“The first meeting with Esme and the Clayson family was an indescribably good feeling. Esme is my genetic twin and is a wonderful girl. I feel a special link to her. I enjoy every second with Esme.”
To sign up, to Anthony Nolan potential donors need to be between the ages of 16 and 30 and in good health. Once on the register, you could be called to donate at any time, up to the age of 60.
Contrary to what people believe, in 90 per cent of cases donors donate through a simple outpatient procedure which is similar to giving blood.
If you're aged between 16-30 and in good general health you can join the register by clicking on the button below:
It costs £100 to add each person to the bone marrow register - to donate money to Anthony Nolan click on the button below: