A Birmingham man has jetted to the USA to finally meet a woman who donated her bone marrow to save his life after a one-in-a-million quest to find a suitable match for a transplant.
Mark Worrall flew to New York to thank mail girl Audrey Pollard who delivered the gift of life when the match was found 3,000 miles away from his West Midlands home.
Mark, son of former regional transport chief and ex-councillor Richard Worrall, was dying from chronic myeloid leukaemia after a painful battle against the disease.
His only possible cure was a successful bone marrow transplant, but donors among the Afro-Caribbean community were extremely rare. Bone marrow is racially sensitive so the chances of securing a perfect match are very slim.
His father Richard, of Walsall, said his son’s condition was first diagnosed when a lump was found in his neck.
“Mark thought he was going to die. If a transplant does not happen, any treatment just staves off the progression of the cancer and eventually leads to death,” Richard explained.
The pair worked hard with charities the Anthony Nolan Trust and Afro-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust to persuade volunteers to become donors but none was forthcoming for Mark, who is of Irish and Caribbean heritage.
His son received uncomfortable chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment without noticeable success – until out of the blue in 2004 there was a call that a match had been found in New York and Audrey had agreed to become a donor.
Now eight years after that fateful day, Mark and his donor finally met face-to-face during an emotional encounter in New York to promote the US Postal Service’s Delivering the Gift of Life campaign to raise the profile of a donor register.
Mark said: “The impact of her decision began to dawn on me. Specifically how her decision has not only affected my life but hers too. So many lives were touched and affected in such a profound way by her courageous decision.”
Mark added: “As I prepared to meet with her, all of a sudden the impact of her decision to join the bone marrow register began to hit me.
“She is fantastic, she is my saviour. She saved my life.”
Postal worker Audrey explained she had been on the international registry for only six months when she was told she was a match for Mark in England.
She said: “If I got another phone call saying I was a match for someone else I would go through the whole process again without even thinking.”
It was a life-changing experience and Mark felt he needed to accomplish so much more in life after being on the brink of death.
He decided to quit his job and went on a round-the-world trip where he met his German girlfriend.
Now they have returned to Birmingham and Mark is helping to promote various charities and persuade more people, especially ethnic minorities, to sign the bone marrow register.
Anyone wishing to register as a bone marrow donor can contact the Anthony Nolan Trust on http://www.anthonynolan.org.