'We have a friendship for life': Woman meets Northampton stranger who saved her life with stem-cell transplant

L-R: Nicky Turkoz and Annette Hamson met in Bournemouth in September and have become life-long friends.
L-R: Nicky Turkoz and Annette Hamson met in Bournemouth in September and have become life-long friends.

A carer from Bournemouth has more reason than most to celebrate after meeting the stranger from Northampton who saved her life.

Nicky Turkoz, 52, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, in December 2014.

After three gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, she was told a stem cell transplant - which involves removing the diseased bone marrow of someone with blood cancer and replacing it with healthy cells from a donor - was her best chance for survival.

With no match in her family, Nicky relied on an anonymous stem cell donor to save her life. Luckily, Annette Hamson, 49, from Northampton became Nicky’s life-saving stranger. Annette had signed up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell donor register years before when a child at the local nursery was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Annette said: “I had lost both my mum and dad so just the thought of somebody else going through that pain of losing someone boosted me to do it, to know that I was going to help somebody.”

Once she was confirmed as Nicky’s best match, Annette travelled down from Northampton to London to complete her donation. Over five days she received four injections to stimulate her stem cells before donating, in a process called PBSC, which is similar to giving blood.

Within 72 hours, Nicky received her transplant in Southampton hospital.

Nicky, who knew she wanted to meet her donor, said: “Without her [Annette] I wouldn’t be able to be here today for my girls.

"I couldn’t die, because I want to be here for them. I can’t explain the magnitude of what that transplant meant to me, I will forever be in her debt.”

Patients and donors must wait two years before exchanging contact details.

Nicky and Annette sent each other regular cards through Anthony Nolan before they were finally able to meet in Bournemouth on September 30.

The ladies said they had often wondered how similar they would be and after both buying the same present – a bottle of prosecco – for each other, they knew they would get on just fine.

“When Annette walked into the restaurant we just knew it was her. I couldn’t have wished for it to be anyone else, we’re twins now,” she adds.

"Annette’s coming to my daughter’s wedding in June and we hope to meet up again before Christmas, we have a friendship for life.”