In 1981, Norman Grimes became one of the first people in the world to successfully donate bone marrow when he saved the life of aplastic anaemia patient Joanna Ciruk.
Now Norman, of Gravesend in Kent, is preparing to run his ninth marathon to raise money for Anthony Nolan – the Virgin Money London Marathon.
Norman’s stem cell donation story
I joined the register in the 1970s when Shirley Nolan was looking for a donor for her son Anthony. I signed up at work but didn’t hear anything afterwards and forgot all about it. A few years later, I got a call out of the blue saying I was a potential match for someone. It was a surprise but it was a wonderful thought to think I might be able to help someone.
I went in for further tests but I knew they were testing three other people so I didn’t think they’d choose me – I’ll always remember the day I got the call confirming I was the best match because it was two days before my wedding day!
After my honeymoon I went into hospital to donate bone marrow, and because it was a new technique the process wasn’t as straightforward as it is now. I was put on the major heart ward, which was disconcerting as a healthy 21-year-old. Doctors were considering the ethics of transplants at the time and whether it contradicted the oath to do no harm, so I was asked to speak to the General Medical Council to stress that I was a willing donor. They used mine and Joanna’s story as a showcase for transplants and we were also featured in The Lancet.
I donated in June and heard from the charity in January to say that Joanna had gone home on Christmas Eve – that was amazing news! We met up a few months later when Joanna was in London, which was quite an emotional day. We’ve met up many times since and we also met Shirley Nolan together, who was an incredible woman. I was in awe of her.
Norman’s lifesaving marathon
Now, Norman is preparing to become a lifesaver again by running the Virgin Money London Marathon for Anthony Nolan. Norman has previously run eight marathons in London and Paris, raising an estimated £12,000 for Anthony Nolan.
I think the support Anthony Nolan gives to runners is stupendous, especially the cheer groups. Just when you’re nearly at the end and dead on your feet you see an enormous group of people cheering for you, it’s wonderful. And the reception at the end is amazing, I don’t think they could do it any better.
Clearly Anthony Nolan is my charity and I’ve got a huge amount from being involved with it. I was very privileged to be a donor at the very beginning and that’s given me an enormous amount of meaning – no matter what I do in life I’ve made a difference to someone.
How it all makes a difference
Kirsty Low, Head of Events at Anthony Nolan, said, ‘Norman has already done something incredibly selfless by donating his bone marrow, and now he’s helping us raise money to save more lives. The money he raises from his marathon will help us recruit more potential donors to the Anthony Nolan register – any one of them could be a lifesaving match for someone with blood cancer.’
To donate to Norman’s VirginMoneyGiving page for the Virgin Money London Marathon, go to: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NormanGrimes
If you’re aged 16-30 and in good general health, you can join our register and could end up saving a life one day too. Find out more at www.anthonynolan.org/register
Want to take on your own challenge for Anthony Nolan? We have places for all kinds of amazing fundraising events, from treks to marathons.