Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

After she was diagnosed with a ‘one in a billion’ genetic condition, Sofia Gardella was in urgent need of a stem cell transplant (Picture: Anthony Nolan)

A young girl with a ‘billion to one’ condition has finally met the woman whose stem cell donation saved her life. 

Sofia Gardella, 9, of Mansfield, was just two years old when her family was told she had Congenital Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia – a potential fatal genetic blood disorder so rare that fewer than 100 people in the world are believed to have it. 

Her doctors trawled through the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register – run by the eponymous charity, which connects people suffering from genetic conditions with life-saving donors – and found a match in 2015 with 52-year-old Dana Ernst Behme from Helpsen, Germany

Dana donated the cells from her hometown. They were subsequently flown to the UK for use in treatment that saved Sofia’s life. 

Sofia’s family have remained in close contact with Dana. After eight years, she and Sofia met on Friday for the first time. 

Footage from Birmingham airport shows the heart-touching moment they shared a long embrace after Dana’s arrival. 

Being just two when Dana made the donation, Sofia doesn’t remember the events leading up to the procedure. 

Sofia’s medical team was able to find a donor, Dana Ernst Behme, through the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register (Picture: ITV News)

But her mother, Claire, does. 

As she recalled: ‘I actually saw the cells arrive at the hospital. I was looking out of the window and saw the courier pull up with the box. 

‘It looked like a bag of blood, but obviously it was a bag of magic cells. 

‘That’s what we called it when we explained it to Sofia – a bag of magic.’

Stem cell donors and the people they donate to only have the option to make direct contact after a two year period has passed.

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Claire said: ‘We started chatting by email. I remember when she sent me a picture of herself and just being able to see that person, who saved your little girl, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. 

‘It’s a really weird feeling, it’s hard to explain – she was a stranger, she didn’t need to do it and we are so, so grateful to her.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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