Bone marrow donor Anthony Lenton has met a little boy he gave the gift of life to and found out how much his kindness means to a family previously strangers to him.
To avoid a lecture he didn’t fancy going to at Borders College four years ago, Anthony instead went to a presentation by students representing Anthony Nolan, a charity for blood cancer sufferers, and that spur-of-the-moment decision ended up saving a youngster’s life.
The 26-year-old, of Galashiels, signed up to be a bone marrow donor and then forgot all about it.
Two years later, he found out he was a perfect match for an unidentified youngster struck down by a deadly form of leukaemia.
Anthony, a manager at bookmaker William Hill’s Galashiels branch, travelled down to London and underwent the simple procedure that would save the life of Finn Mackin, four.
And now, two years later, he’s finally met Finn, of Aberdeenshire.
He was given a hero’s welcome by Finn, now cancer-free, and his parents, Siobhan Rolinson and Stephen Mackin, at the family’s home in Stonehaven.
He’s also set to be a guest of honour at Siobhan and Stephen’s wedding next year.
Anthony said: “I was so nervous, but it turned out to be the best day of my life. It was as if I gained a whole new family. They were all so lovely.
“Siobhan described me and Finn as genetically identical twins because he’s now got my blood type. I have a nephew the same age as Finn, and I just keep telling myself that such a simple act can have such an amazing impact.”
Cambridgeshire-born Anthony moved to Hawick with his mum as a teenager and attended Hawick High School and later Borders College.
Recalling the day he made the decision to sign up for the register, he said: “Some students had come from Edinburgh to promote Anthony Nolan at Borders College. To be honest, I just went along to avoid a boring lecture but ended up signing up to be a donor.
“I never thought much more about it, and then two years later got a phone call and email to say that I was a match.
“I went to London to undergo the procedure, and at that stage I didn’t know the age or the gender of the person I was helping. It was only when a doctor showed me the weight of the person that I realised it was a child. That somehow made me more willing to do it.
“The procedure is so simple. Some people associate the words bone marrow transplant with something horrible, but it is really simple.
“They put me to sleep and took the extraction from the back of my pelvis. I only felt a little bit tender there, but it is nothing really when you consider that something so simple can save a life.”
Siobhan called Anthony a “true hero” and a “friend for life”, adding: “Without Anthony, Finn wouldn’t be here – it’s as simple as that.
“We were running out of options, and the transplant was the final option.”
Anthony also hopes that, as a gay man, his story will help tackle misconceptions, explaining: “I was once told that I shouldn’t donate because I would turn the person gay.
“Hopefully, people will understand that your sexuality has no impact at all on whether you should be a donor.
“My partner and members of my family are also now going to sign up with the register, and I’m taking part in an Anthony Nolan event at Borders College after the summer.”
“I’d urge anyone to sign up. You’ll never regret it. It’s just so easy to save a life.”
To find out more about the charity, go to anthonynolan.org