Heroic West Hill teenager saved a stranger’s life

19-year-old bone marrow donor George Stafford

19-year-old bone marrow donor George Stafford - Credit: Archant

Bone marrow donor George is calling on others to sign up to Anthony Nolan register

A selfless teenager was inspired to save a stranger’s life after his two best friends were diagnosed with blood cancer - just months apart from each other.

George Stafford, 19, of Bendarroch Road, West Hill, hopes the incredible story of how he became a bone marrow donor will encourage others to do the same and give someone else a second chance at life.

The former King’s School student was devastated when, at the age of 14, his childhood friends, Harry Symons and Aidan Clarke, were diagnosed with different rare blood cancers.

Both teenagers survived – in Aidan’s case thanks to an anonymous donor found by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan – and the trio have made national headlines with their campaign to raise awareness of the cause.

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Now a student at Nottingham Trent University, George said: “I remember coming home from school and my parents sat me down and told me Aidan had leukaemia. I knew he was ill but I had no idea it was this serious; it was shocking to hear that - you just don’t expect to hear the word ‘cancer’ at our age. Less than a year later I was hearing the same words about Harry.

“I just couldn’t believe it.

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“The odds of both of your best mates being diagnosed with cancer at the same time are just ridiculous. It was always in the back of my head, are they going to survive?”

George and Harry were at primary school in Exmouth together from the age of four and met Aidan as players for Exmouth Rugby Club.

Even after George moved to West Hill, the three still met up most evenings and weekends.

Harry responded successfully to chemotherapy treatment, but Aidan’s best chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant from a stranger.

On his 16th birthday, George signed up to the same register that had saved his best friend.

He said: “I signed up as soon as I was old enough. It’s so easy to do, so I registered and then just put it to the back of my head. I do not think anyone really expects to be a donor but in December I got a call saying I was a potential match and then in January, after my 19th birthday, I found out it was a 100 per cent match.”

The brave teen went in to donate on February 24, opting to have the less common operation under general anaesthetic, as that is what Aidan went through.

He admitted his parents were worried about him donating, but are immensely proud of what he has done for a complete stranger.

The three friends are now backing Anthony Nolan’s ‘March of the Men’ campaign to get more young men on to the register and have been labelled heroes by the charity. Young men are most in demand as they make up just 15 per cent of the register.

For more information, visit: www.anthonynolan.org

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