Handshake and a hug for stem cell hero David

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A dad from Devon travelled to Argyll last week for his first meeting with the man who saved his life.

Brett Grist from Teignmouth was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in May 2014 and, after relapsing following three cycles of chemotherapy, was told a stem cell transplant would be his best chance of survival.

That anonymous stem cell donation came from Lochgilphead man David MacInnes.

David joined the Anthony Nolan stem cell register in his teens after a friend lost his cousin to leukaemia.

He explained: ‘There’s a big following for Anthony Nolan in our area because a few years ago the cousin of one of my best friends, a young woman called Johanna, needed a transplant. She died because there was no match, but I signed up because of her.’

Brett received his transplant in October 2015 and, after a long recovery, is now healthy and well.

The identity of recipient and donor must be kept confidential for two years, to protect them both, but the pair exchanged cards, giving Brett and David the chance to learn a bit about each other.

Then, on Sunday June 3, the long-awaited meeting took place in Campbeltown.

Brett continued: ‘I had butterflies before we met. I was a little bit lost for words but I gave David a hug and shook hands and said thank you. We had a lovely evening together with our families and the kids played together, which was great.

‘Without David, my kids would have grown up without a father.

‘The first couple of minutes were a little bit overwhelming because there was so much anticipation,’ said David .

‘Our kids got along really well and I see us becoming friends rather than anyone feeling like they owe us something,’ he continued.

David now works for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and is involved in its partnership with Anthony Nolan, which has now recruited more than 10,000 potential donors.

Amy Bartlett, regional development manager for Scotland said: ‘The SFRS and Anthony Nolan partnership has already resulted in 28 people donating stem cells but Brett and David are the first pair who have been able to meet, so it’s an exciting moment.

‘I would encourage anyone who is aged 16-30 and in good health to consider joining the register and visit anthonynolan.org/join. Joining the register is simple and it could save the life of someone like Brett.’