A woman from Irthlingborough who donated bone marrow has finally met the man who received the transplant – 15 years after saving his life.
Tracy Tenney’s bone marrow was flown to America to help Tony Walter, who had unsuccessfully gone through chemotherapy and radiotherapy before the transplant to treat the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma he had.
Tony had been through some awful medical treatments without success so to see this work and his happiness is amazing.Tracy Tenney
And after keeping in touch since exchanging contact details after his treatment, Tony made the trip across the Pond last week to thank her.
Painter and decorator Tracy, 41, was ‘humbled’ to finally meet the man whom she had given a new lease of life to.
She said: “It was absolutely fantastic to meet Tony and see how much of an impact my donation has had.
“Something like that really puts life in perspective and seeing how happy he is makes it all worth it.
“Tony had been through some awful medical treatments without success so to see this work and his happiness is amazing.
“His daughter was only seven when he had the transplant so this has ensured she’s grown up with a dad and he’s been able to see his daughter grow up.”
Tracy described the transplant as Tony’s ‘last hope’.
She said: “With the transplant it’s not only saved his life, but given him a better quality of life too.
“He’s fighting fit now and it’s all from a simple operation.
“I’m delighted to see him looking so well and it’s fantastic to finally meet him.
“To be able to have such a positive impact on somebody you didn’t even know feels great and is really heart-warming.”
After donating the bone marrow Tracy received a letter informing her she was a potential match, but even then she didn’t believe her actions would have the impact they did.
She said: “When I got the original letter I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere as lots of people get told they are a potential match.
“Later that year I received another letter informing me I was the best potential match and that my marrow was being flown over to America.
“It was all timed to coincide with flights from Tony’s doctor and only then did it hit me that I was going to make a serious difference.”
Tracy urged people to sign up to be a donor, with her 18-year-old daughter among those she has persuaded to register.
She said: “It’s a really simple operation and just by signing up and being tested it increases the chances of somebody in need finding a match.
“It’s a bit of a step up from donating blood but at the end of the day it only takes two hours.
“I went to London for mine and I was really well looked after. They appreciate what you doing for quite often people you’ve never met.
“I felt shattered after I donated all those years ago but it’s a small price to pay when you see outcomes like Tony’s.
“I’d encourage anyone reading this to sign up – you could be about to save someone’s life.”
Tony’s wife Karen said the couple were ‘extremely grateful’ for Tracy’s help.
She said: “Tony has four siblings and unfortunately none of those were matches.
“He had undergone all of the other treatments without any success and this really was the last option.
“The fact that Tracy has gone out of her own way to help us is awesome and she is a tremendously unselfish person.
“Her and her family have been extremely welcoming and we have had such a fun time in England.
“Tracy will be a lifelong family member in our eyes and we will be eternally grateful.”
The couple flew over from their hometown of Piqua, Ohio, and were treated to a feast of English activities.
After a couple of trips to the local pub and a party, the couple visited the scenic Rockingham Castle to get a taste of the English countryside.
And Tracy was sad to see them leave.
She added: “It was really great to have them here and it has been planned for a while.
“When Tony first called and said he was flying over I was absolutely gobsmacked, and we’ve been arranging things ever since.
“They have been extremely grateful and kind but I’m really sad to have to say goodbye.
“I’ve really enjoyed having them over and we will be friends for life and always stay in contact.”