Bone marrow donor’s amazing connection with little boy whose life he saved
Neil Lovell tells us how honoured and privileged he is to have saved someone’s life as the search continues for a match for Mateo
A bone marrow donor has told of the amazing connection he feels with the little boy whose life he saved.
Neil Lovell came face-to-face for the first time with Domenic Doyle – a once seriously ill boy who received his bone marrow – on ITV show ‘Surprise Surprise’, more than two years after he underwent the transplant operation.
Neil, a father of four from Northampton signed up to the UK-based Anthony Nolan register in 2009 after a high-profile campaign in his local area. The register matches potential donors with blood cancer patients. Two years later, he received a letter to say he was a match with someone in desperate need of a transplant.
All details about the donor and recipient were kept confidential so warehouse manager Neil, 37, had no idea who had received his bone marrow, until just before he and nine-year-old Domenic were brought together on the television show.
Domenic had been critically ill with leukaemia and a transplant was the last resort. Luckily the procedure was successful.
“I feel so honoured and privileged to have played a part in this,” said Neil. “I do feel a connection with Domenic and would like to keep in touch to see what he’s doing. I feel amazing about the whole experience and so touched by the response I’ve received since appearing on the show. I didn’t know anything about Domenic and how poorly he’d been. The first time I saw him was on the show and he looked like a fighting fit little boy. It would be lovely if every donor could go through what I experienced.”
Show of strength: Brave Domenic at hospital
Neil had to undergo an operation under general anaesthetic to be able to donate his bone marrow to Domenic. He was given a full medical check beforehand and talked through the procedure. He said there was ‘never a doubt’ in his mind about going through with the operation and he had the full support of his family.
Neil said: “The only risk to me was the normal risk of having a general anaesthetic. It was like a bad bout of flu after the operation but I recovered quickly and was back at work within the week.”
Domenic, from Falmouth, received the transplant after his leukaemia returned for the second time. But while he was in hospital recovering from the procedure, he contracted two viruses which took their toll on him.
Domenic’s dad Michael Doyle, 34, said: “He was really sick, weak and in pain with fluid on his lungs and heart. He was bed-ridden and his muscles started deteriorating. We were told to expect the worst. It was awful.”
But slowly Domenic started to recover until finally being allowed to return home after four months in hospital. Two years on he is still cancer free.
Michael, a teaching assistant, said: “Neil is an absolute super hero. He’s very humble but to us it’s overwhelming. From day one we wanted to meet Neil to say thank you and show how grateful we were. When we met him words can’t describe my feelings at the time. It was emotional. He’s now a friend for life – part of the family.”
Domenic is well on the road to recovery
Michael stressed the importance of support systems like the Anthony Nolan register in helping to save lives.
“There are so many sad stories where people aren’t finding donors,” he said. “It isn’t like giving a lung or a kidney. You’re giving something which can replenish itself fairly quickly. Anyone on the Anthony Nolan register is a hero, offering part of themselves to save a life.”
Neil agreed: “For a couple of seconds of discomfort you can give someone their life back. Hopefully from this story more people can see that this could be the happy ending.”
There are currently 7,000 patients in the UK and throughout the world looking for a suitable bone marrow donor, according to the Anthony Nolan Trust.