IN exactly two hours, 11 minutes and 47 seconds, Burton teacher Katherine Sinfield received the donated stem cells she desperately needed to clear her of leukaemia.
The transplant happened as planned on Tuesday, but was later than expected because storm St Jude, which left southern Britain battered on Monday, had made its way across to Germany – the source of Katherine’s new life.
Katherine, 33, of Balfour Street, said: “I had been expecting the cells all day, and my visitors arrived early so that they didn’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
However, the minutes turned into hours and it was gone 11pm when the cells finally made it on to the ward.
“I was really eager to receive the cells on Tuesday, as October 29 is my late mother’s birth date, and I wanted to be able to share a birth date with her.
“It was just after midnight by the time my Hickman line had been prepared and the paperwork sorted, but October 29 will always be my official ‘day zero’, as that’s the day the cells were signed into the ward and prepared.”
Katherine, who has been the face of the Burton Mail’s ‘Take Five Minutes’ campaign, said: “The bag containing the stem cells was much bigger than I anticipated – 495.6ml to be precise, and resembled a bag of blood. However, as the cells made their way through the drip system, the actual colour of the liquid was closer to pink grapefruit.
“We sat into the early hours of Wednesday morning watching this lifesaving drip slowly empty, thinking all the time of this very special person – who we now know to be a woman from Germany – who has volunteered to take time off from work and undergo various fitness and medical tests to donate their cells, just for me.”
Katherine’s husband and Mail journalist Stephen said: “I’ll admit that when I returned to an empty house at 2.20am on a cold Wednesday morning, I cried. The relief was immense, as you cannot describe the tension which builds up over weeks as you wait for the date to arrive.
“We will never be able to thank the German lady who donated the cells, or the charity Anthony Nolan, enough for what they have done.
“We’re acutely aware that the hard work starts now, as transplants bring with them many long and short-term side-effects, but we will deal with these as and when they arrive.
“The key thing is clearing Katherine of leukaemia and, hopefully, this is what these cells will achieve.
“Having witnessed such a special event, we really can’t emphasise enough how important it is for people to sign up to the bone marrow register. To put it bluntly, we were lucky – we found a donor. Others aren’t so lucky and will die of waiting.”