A BONE marrow donor from Northumberland has travelled across the world to come face-to-face with the little boy whose life he saved.
Barry Crackett, 34, had no idea who he was helping when he donated bone marrow two-and-a-half years ago, but just before Christmas he learnt that it was a young American boy.
Now he has finally been able to meet eight-year-old Ryan Compton after flying out to Los Angeles for an emotional introduction.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” he said.
“There were lots of Press and cameras there and there was a big screen up and we had to come from behind the screen and meet the Comptons for the first time. It was pretty amazing.”
Mr Crackett joined the Anthony Nolan Trust bone marrow donor register in 2002, but heard nothing until October 2010 when he learnt he was a match for someone in need of a transplant.
The trust’s rules meant he could know nothing about the recipient for at least two years, but in December he was told that it was a young boy from the United States and his family would like to meet Mr Crackett.
A big event was planned to introduce donors and recipients in the boy’s hometown of Los Angeles so Mr Crackett, his wife Jessica and month-old son Sol set off from their Widdrington Station home last week.
It was an extraordinary experience when Mr Crackett finally met Ryan, his mother Maggie and father Jason, but the two families were immediately whisked off for interviews and didn’t get a chance to really catch up until the next day when the Comptons took the visitors to stay in their home. Ever since, they have been inseparable.
“We will be friends for life,” said Mr Crackett.
“Ryan is so full of energy and you would think he has been fine all of his life, but I have seen pictures of him when he was ill and I heard speeches by the doctors, which really brings it home what a rough time it has been for the whole family.
“People say I saved Ryan’s life, but I played a very small part, there are lots of other people involved.
“Everybody should do what I did and get on the register. It can be as easy as giving blood.”
Ryan’s mother Maggie says it is difficult to put into words what the Cracketts mean to her family.
“Ever since we heard that Ryan had a perfect match and someone was willing to step up to save his life my husband and I have always wondered who he was. We didn’t know a name or a face, just there was someone who saved out son’s life — the reason why our son is living and breathing and running and playing. To finally be able to meet Barry and his family is really amazing,” she said.
“Ryan is my son, but he has Barry’s blood running through his veins, giving him life and energy. He is a healthy boy. That would not be possible without Barry. We now have this life-long bond.”
The Comptons ordeal began in 2007 when Ryan was diagnosed with leukaemia at 22-months-old. He underwent three-and-a-half years of gruelling treatment, but ten days after taking his last chemotherapy pill he relapsed and his chances of survival were slim.
“It was horrendous. It was like we were living a daily nightmare that would never end,” said Mrs Compton.
“The first three-and-a-half years of treatment were brutal and terrifying enough, but once Ryan relapsed we knew the odds of him surviving were not good. We didn’t know day to day what the future would hold. We just lived hour by hour. We couldn’t have hopes and dreams for our child, we just had to savour every single moment.
“Now we have dreams for Ryan and we can plan what we’re going to do tomorrow, or next week or in the summer. We couldn’t do that before Barry came into our lives.
“We hope our story will inspire other people to come forward and do what Barry did because we want this happy ending for all families and for all people in need of bone marrow transplant.”
The Cracketts are continuing their holiday with the family in Los Angeles and San Francisco and the Comptons plan to visit Northumberland this summer.
For information about the bone marrow donor register visit www.anthonynolan.org