The grandfather of a Sunderland schoolgirl searching for a lifesaver to help her battle a rare blood condition has issued a rallying call for people to become donor - just like him.
Graeme Bowser registered to the DKMS stem cell list as his family began to look for someone who was a match for seven-year-old Chloe Gray.
The Plans Farm Academy pupil has Diamond Blackfan Anaemia, which means her body does not produce red blood cells.
She has undergone regular blood transfusions since before she was born, but the Silksworth youngster is in need of the treatment because her body is beginning to build antibodies against the donor blood.
More than 300 signed up to the charity register at a #aheroforchloe event at The Bridges shopping centre on Monday, which saw members of her family and the charity man a table where people could submit a swab to help create a DNA profile of them and fill out some details about their health.
Further events are planned, with people also able to sign up online.
It was an absolute doddle to do.Graeme Bowser
Among those who have already made a difference is Graeme, who was found to be a match for a woman in Australia.
The 56-year-old retired firefighter, from Houghton, donated in 2003 after he was talked and supported through the process by the charity.
As he put his feet up, he donated blood which had the cells filtered out, with what was left returned to his body.
Graeme, who is dad to Chloe’s father Craig 32, and twins Leigh and Rachael, 27, said: “They told me I could be a match and I had some blood tests, so then went to London to the University College Hospital to donate my stem cells.
“It was an absolute doddle to do.
“Everybody has these images in their minds that there’s going to be a great big needle and it’s going to be difficult, but it wasn’t at all.
“For five days before I was given a growth hormone to force the body to produce more stem cells into the blood stream, they took the cells out and put the rest of the blood back in.
“I had donated plasma before and it was very similar.
“I know that I was donating to a woman in her 40s in Melbourne, Australia.
“The only side affect I have was a bit of back ache, that was it.
“For 30 years I tried my best to save lives as a firefighter and then I got the chance to save the life of someone else all the way in Australia.
“It’s such a simple thing do and it’s a great feeling.”
Graeme, alongside wife Kim, 57, and Chloe’s mum Francesca, brother Freddie Bowser, two, sister Millie Gray, 10, and step brother Tye Bowser, 12, are hopeful a match can be found for her.
Graeme added: “Chloe takes it all in her stride.
“I think that’s the amazing thing about her, because since birth, she’s not known any different and so going to hospital is a dressing up day and she knows all the nurses and doctors. “She has a great sense of humour, she’s a great kid.
“We just hope someone can be found to help her and for others in the same situation as we are.”
The DKMS register is open to people aged between 17 and 55 and in general good health.
Anyone interested in signing up who has had a chronic or serious condition now or in the past, or take medication regularly, can chat with a member of the DKMS UK team by emailing email@example.com.
People can register online via dkms.org.uk.
‘We’re desperately hoping a match will be found soon’
Graeme’s former colleagues are among those who are lending their support to the #heroforchloe campaign.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) was approached by grandad-of-four Graeme after it had previously lent its support to the appeal to help his granddaughter.
Once again it is helping to spread the word to its staff, with other brigades also being asked to pass on information to firefighters and other employees in the hope a stem cell match can be found for her, as well as others on the waiting list.
A spokeswoman for TWFRS said: “Naturally we want to do everything we can to help Chloe and her family.
“And the best way we could think to support her is by encouraging everyone who can to register on www.dkms.org.uk.
“We sent Chloe’s story and details of the charity to all our 800 staff, and contacted the wider fire service family in Northumberland FRS; County Durham and Darlington FRS and Cleveland Fire Brigade to do the same.
“We’re delighted that they were more than willing to share Chloe’s story and encourage their own staff to register.
“We’re desperately hoping a match will be found soon and would urge everyone to register.”
Anyone who would like to find out more can visit Chloe’s DBA Fight #aheroforchloe.