Man who saved a grandma’s life is surprise guest at party

Sally and John Waller and their family.
Sally and John Waller and their family.

A woman from Milton Keynes enjoyed a triple celebration as her family gathered for a party to mark her 70th birthday, golden wedding anniversary and seven years of being cancer-free – and surprised her by inviting along the stem cell donor who saved her life.

Sally Waller and husband John, 76, along with their three children Andrew, 47, Peggy, 46, and Rob, 44, plus other friends and family, travelled to London for the celebratory weekend on Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2.

Anthony Nolan volunteer courier

Anthony Nolan volunteer courier

Saturday was Sally’s 70th birthday and the couple’s golden wedding anniversary, while the day before her husband John retired from his job in insurance.

The occasion also marked seven years since Sally received a stem cell transplant to cure her acute myeloid leukaemia in 2010.

Grandmother-of-ten Sally was diagnosed with the aggressive form of blood cancer in early 2010 and was told a stem cell transplant was her best chance of a cure. As there was no matching donor in her family, the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan searched its register of stem cell donors to find someone with a matching tissue type.

Luckily Darryl White, 37, from Sherburn in Yorkshire, was a perfect match – made even more special by the fact that he had joined the register only a few months earlier. Darryl donated his stem cells through his bloodstream, and the cells were then couriered to the hospital where Sally was being treated.

Sally Waller and Darryl White

Sally Waller and Darryl White

Her daughter Peggy Margrave said: “It was a huge shock when mum was diagnosed and the following weeks passed by in a blur. She was extremely lucky to have received a transplant so quickly.”

Anonymity rules prevent patients and donors for exchanging contact details for two years after the transplant, but in 2013 Sally and Darryl met for the first time and have become firm friends.

Darryl said: “I’m glad I’ve been able to help Sally extend her life by the last seven years, and hopefully many more to come. It’s really nice to have helped someone. I feel part of the family now, we all get on so well and have the same sense of humour.”

The family are appealing for more young people, particularly men aged 16-30, to join the Anthony Nolan register and give more people like Sally a second chance of life.

Peggy said: “Darryl and his family have become a very important addition to our family, and we will all be forever grateful for Darryl’s selfless act.

“Without Darryl we would be without a mum, a wife, a grandma and a friend. Darryl had only been on the register for such a short time when mum was diagnosed and in my eyes, it was all meant to be. Knowing that you could potentially save a life and make a difference to so many people must be a wonderful feeling and considering how easy it is to join the register, I appeal people to sign up now.”

Rebecca Pritchard, head of register development at Anthony Nolan, said: “The selfless actions of donors such as Darryl help save the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorder.

“What many people don’t realise is how simple it is to join the stem cell register – it involves filling in a form and providing a saliva sample. We urgently need more young men to sign up as they are the most likely to be chosen to donate but are under-represented on the register.”

Every day Anthony Nolan gives three people a second chance at life. Find out more at www.anthonynolan.org