Mercy flight for donor stem cells

Herald Series: Pensioner Glenn Abbassi has given up her Christmas celebrations to travel 5,000 miles to collect lifesaving stem cells from China (Anthony Nolan/PA) Pensioner Glenn Abbassi has given up her Christmas celebrations to travel 5,000 miles to collect lifesaving stem cells from China (Anthony Nolan/PA)

A pensioner has given up her Christmas celebrations to travel 5,000 miles to collect lifesaving stem cells.

Glenn Abbassi, 70, normally spends the festive season with her husband and two stepchildren, but this year will travel from her home in Ipswich to the Chinese capital Beijing.

Once there she will collect stem cells to transport back to the UK for a patient who is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.

Mrs Abbassi will face a race against the clock, as t he cells are likely to be the patient's last chance of survival and must be delivered from the donor to the recipient within 72 hours.

She said the Anthony Nolan charity had asked if any volunteer couriers were available to collect the cells over Christmas.

"For some people, Christmas is an important occasion to spend time with their families," Mrs Abbassi said.

"But it's also an occasion to be thankful for what we have and to think about other people - families with loved ones in hospital or local people who need help and support."

Mrs Abbassi caught her flight late last night.

She will spend Christmas Eve on the plane before collecting the cells on Christmas Day and flying home on Boxing Day.

Mrs Abbassi has been a volunteer for the blood cancer charity for seven years after her life was twice touched by their work.

Her first husband, Peter Davies, was diagnosed with blood disorder aplastic anaemia and died after an unsuccessful transplant in 1980.

She met her current husband, Eddie Abbassi, a few years later after he flew from Iran to the UK to donate his bone marrow to his brother.

"Lots of people ask me why I do it and the honest answer is that I enjoy volunteering," Mrs Abbassi said.

"Being able to play such a vital role in delivering stem cells to patients gives me a lot of satisfaction. It's a brilliant way to be involved in a charity which carries out such important work."

Mrs Abbassi has completed more than 225 trips for Anthony Nolan, collecting stem cells for vital transplants.

Rob O'Grady, volunteer manager at the charity, said: "When we had a request to collect stem cells before new year, we knew that it was for someone who needed a bone marrow transplant urgently.

"Thankfully, Glenn volunteered to collect stem cells from China so that this patient can have the best chance at survival."

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