Volunteer stem cell courier Sue jets to Canada to ‘save a life’ this Christmas

Sue Brooks

Sue Brooks - Credit: Archant

A volunteer is giving up her Christmas Eve to fly across the world to Canada, to collect and deliver stem cells to a UK patient in desperate need of a lifesaving transplant.

Sue Brooks

Sue Brooks - Credit: Archant

Sue Brooks, a retired A&E consultant from Peterborough, will embark on the 7,000 mile round-trip. However, it will be a race against time because there can only be 72 hours between the donor giving the stem cells and the patient receiving them.

A self-confessed ‘Christmas person’, she is a volunteer stem cell courier for blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, which runs the UK’s bone marrow and stem cell register.

The 66-year old has done over 280 trips over the past six years, taking her from Taiwan and Australia to Israel and Poland.

She said: “It’s a challenging role but I love it. You really have to think on your feet, which I’m used to having worked in A&E for so long.

“I’ve sprinted through many an airport and train station, dealt with cancelled flights, and even wandered round Dubai looking for ice packs to make sure the cells stayed cold – in the end I scrounged some from Burger King.”

She added that she feels very aware that “I’m physically carrying a person’s life in my hands.

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“It’s a responsibility to ensure the cells arrive on time, but it will also be a wonderful feeling to hand over the gift of life on Christmas Eve.

“I will hand the box of cells over with a prayer and a hope that this person, whoever they may be, goes on to live a long and happy life after their transplant.”

Sue, who has six nieces and nephews and 12 great nieces and nephews, will fly to Canada, before returning to Birmingham on Christmas Eve to deliver the cells.

While in Canada, she is hoping to see her younger brother James and to meet his 18-year-old son for the first time.

“Christmas is all about family so we’re really going to try and make sure we meet up while I’m over there. The last time I saw my brother was on another Anthony Nolan trip about 10 years ago!

“Once I’m back, I’ve got family all over the country so I’ll be trying to make it to St Albans for midnight mass, then spending Christmas Day in Lincoln with my brother, then over to Huddersfield on Boxing Day to see my nieces.

“Then on New Year’s Eve I’ll go to sleep… unless there’s an Anthony Nolan trip, that is!”

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