Oliver meets stranger who saved his life

WHEN Oliver Rofix was just 20 years old he was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of leukaemia that left him needing a bone marrow transplant for any chance of survival.

Craig Robinson

WHEN Oliver Rofix was just 20 years old he was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of leukaemia that left him needing a bone marrow transplant for any chance of survival.

Out of the nine million people registered for donation there were just two tissue matches - and even then the chances of success were slim.

But just three days after his 21st birthday the former Woodbridge School pupil received the treatment he so desperately needed.

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Oliver, of Clopton, is now in remission and on Saturday he finally came face to face with the stranger who saved his life at Suffolk Yacht Harbour in Levington, near Ipswich,

Of the two people who matched his tissue type on the Anthony Nolan Trust bone marrow register one was in America and the other was Matthew Hall, who lived just a few miles away in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

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Oliver, now 24, said: “I was only the third known person in the world to be diagnosed with this form of leukaemia and the other two had died.

“To find someone out of nine million people who also lived so close was very lucky.

“It's great to finally meet Matthew. We had already swapped a few Christmas cards and sent e-mails to one another but that was it. I'd never even seen a picture of him - I wanted to be completely in the dark.

“The Anthony Nolan Trust can arrange contact between a patient and donor - but only after two years. After that I had to make the first move.

“It was an important thing for me to do. I can't express my thanks enough because he really has saved my life.”

Oliver, who used to work at the Port of Felixstowe, was diagnosed with a rare unnamed form of leukaemia in November 2005.

His first bone marrow transplant had to be cancelled because he was so ill but in March, 2006, it was second time lucky.

Mr Hall, 43, who joined the Anthony Nolan register in 1995, was called to a Harley Street clinic for a medical.

And becoming a donor is not quite as painful as people expect - 80% of tests can now be done through a process similar to giving blood.

Mr Hall, who has an 11-year-old daughter called Ellie with his wife Karen, said: “When I knew I could actually help someone, there was no way I was going to say no. I was only in hospital for three days and two nights. I was treated extremely well.

“There was a little bit of pain but it wasn't unbearable. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. I'd have no worries. I'd encourage anyone to join up. It's incredibly easy to do.”

Next year Oliver will be sailing around Great Britain in a bid to raise awareness and support of the Anthony Nolan Trust and also try and inspire others who have been seriously ill.

“It's very hard for people who come out of treatment to get their confidence back,” he said. “I want to show people that they can still go out there and do what they want to do.”

To find out more about Oliver's plans visit www.olivers-travels.co.uk.

The Anthony Nolan Trust manages and recruits new donors to the UK's most successful bone marrow register as well as carrying out research to improve the safety and effectiveness of transplants.

To become a donor you must be between 18 and 40, in good health, weigh more than eight stones (51kg) and be willing to donate to any matching patient in the world.

All are welcome but young men and ethnic minorities are under represented on the register.

For more information visit www.anthonynolan.org.uk or call 0303 3030303.

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