A young mum from Wiltshire gave up breastfeeding her baby in order to donate blood stem cells to a seriously ill girl she has never met.
Sophie Eyre, who works as a weight loss consultant in Calne and Chippenham, registered with the charity the Anthony Nolan Trust on a whim five years ago.
“It was a random thing,” she said. “I’d just given blood alongside a friend and we decided to register to become a bone marrow, blood stem cell donor knowing that many who do will never ever receive a call. It just seemed like a good thing to do.”
Last year though, just five months after giving birth to her son William, she was contacted out of the blue by the charity to say that a 12-year-old girl from Belgium had cancer of the blood and the only match in the world was Sophie.
“Normally they don’t allow any woman who has given birth in the last 12 months to donate stem cells. I told them, I’d had William a few months before and they asked me if I was happy to go through the tests as there were no other matches in the world.
“I didn’t hesitate as I realised I might be this child’s only chance.”
In August, 27-year-old Sophie undertook numerous medical tests and was then asked if she wanted to go ahead and make a donation of stem cells.
“They said I was fantastically healthy, which was brilliant as I’d worked very hard on my diet and fitness for the previous two years.
“It did mean I’d have to give up breast feeding for a short period as they had to give me injections to boost my stem cells ready for donation. William was five months old, I’d breast fed him throughout so I was willing to do that. I know I’d done my best for him already.
“The donation involved three days of injections in the stomach at home followed by a day in hospital in London. I wasn’t able to move my arm for five hours as blood was withdrawn.
“After the stem cells were removed the blood was then pumped back into the other arm. I had achy muscles for a few days as they inject you with something to multiply the cells, but as soon as it was donated I felt fine again,” she said.
The harvested cells were then flown out to Belgium and Sophie was told the procedure with the 12-year-old girl had gone well. Although Sophie could have returned to breastfeeding a few weeks after the procedure, her milk dried up naturally in the meantime.
“I’ve got absolutely no regrets. I’ve not met the girl who was given my stem cells. But it’s just amazing to think that there is someone out there that I’ve never met, never known and with whom I have no connection at all but we have something in our bodies which matches.”
One of the reasons Sophie was able to donate stem cells so soon after her pregnancy was her good health.
In 2011, she’d been overweight at more than 12 stone for her height of five feet eight inches.
“The weight piled on when I went from being on my feet all the time working in a garden centre to sitting behind a desk. I was really, really self conscious, I lost all my self esteem.
“I started to go to Slimming World classes with my mum Suzanne and set myself a target of losing over three stones. My self-esteem was so low and I didn’t know if I could do it.
“But I did and over time as I worked with the consultant, I thought, I could do that job and inspire others to lose weight too.”
Soon after, Sophie became a consultant herself and today holds classes in Calne and Chippenham on Wednes-days and Thursdays.
“When I found out I was pregnant, I kept on going. This healthy eating regime worked for me and I was supported by my midwife and people who came to my classes saw me continue with healthy eating right through my pregnancy. In fact, William still comes along to classes now.”
Sophie never dreamed that achieving a personal goal of losing weight – she’s now under nine stone – could help her save the life of another person who was in desperate need.
“I would urge anybody to register for this – it means so much to me that I could have helped save a child’s life.
“There were some people who felt that I maybe shouldn’t have done this, quite soon after giving birth, for a complete stranger.
“But what if it was your loved one or a close friend?
“There was no doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do. And if that child ever needs me to donate again, I’m more than willing to do it.”
- To sign up to the Anthony Nolan register you must be aged between 16 and 30 – this is because doctors tend to prefer younger donors and the trust wishes to focus its resources in this area.
- Patient and donor can have anonymous contact if they wish for the first two years after donation.
- After two years have passed, the trust can put individuals in contact with each other directly. For details, visit www.anthonynolan.org
- Sophie runs her classes at Beversbrook Sports Facility in Calne on Wednesdays at 9.30am, 5.30pm and 7.30pm and at St Peter’s School hall, Chippenham on Thursdays at 5.30pm and 7.30pm.
Sophie’s contact details are: 07525 807878 or email sophie_eyre18@ hotmail.com