Essex bone marrow donor to run London Marathon with girl whose life he saved 13 years ago

Elliott Brock was 29 when he donated bone marrow cells in 2008.

It was those cells that saved eight-year-old Vicky Lawrence from an aggressive form of bone cancer.

Little did the 42-year-old physiotherapist from Mersea know that he would be running side by side with the now 22-year old at the Virgin London Marathon next weekend – 13 years later.

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The “surreal experience” for the father-of-two started in 2000 when he signed up to the bone marrow register after seeing an Anthony Nolan poster on a wall where he worked.

“I’m just really proud and pleased that I could help after all that time of being on the register and forgetting I was on it and finally I could possibly make a difference,” Elliott said.

Elliot Brock donating bone marrow stem cells in 2008

“It’s just very fortunate that it worked in the first place and how things have panned out that I eventually got to know my recipient and led us to do the marathon together, we get on very well and it is just a lovely story,” he said.

A few years later, Vicky, who was eight at the time, had been diagnosed with severe aplastic anaemia – a disease in which the bone marrow does not produce enough blood cells for the body.

At the time of the life-saving transplant in 2008, the pair were complete strangers, but now they will run in the marathon together.

Vicky, 22, a third-year medical student at Newcastle University, said: “My anaemia basically left me with such low red blood cell levels my parents were told my only chance of survival was an anonymous match from the Antony Nolan register donating their bone marrow to me.”

The pair will be running for Anthony Nolan, which Elliott said “made perfect sense” as the charity brought them together and helped saved Vicky’s life.

Anthony Nolan is a UK cancer charity that raises awareness and works in areas of leukaemia and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Elliott and Vicky were supposed to run in the annual event last year before it was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, they will be running the 26.2m footrace through the streets of Central London next month.

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“If I was the person in need I would like to think somebody would put themselves out for me”

Elliott was at work when he received a call to save Vicky’s life in September 2008, eight years after he signed up on the register.

At this point, Elliott said he completely forgot he was on the list and was a popular man as his phone was going crazy with the blood service and healthcare services calling him to confirm if he wanted to go ahead with the procedure.

“I would like to think if somebody else was in the same position to help me they would do the same really,” he said. “It was exciting and [I was] very happy I could possibly help and was more than willing to do whatever they needed me to do.”

The charity organised everything for Elliott to perform the bone marrow transplant in November that year at a hospice in Central London.

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Elliott said he was apprehensive about the procedure at first but was put at ease when the doctors explained it.

The procedure was expected to take a couple of days but doctors were able to take the amount needed in just one because Vicky was a child.

But the 42-year old said the procedure was pain-free and was like “giving blood for four hours”, after which he was discharged.

Elliott provided the donations with no guarantee that he was going to hear back from Vicky and her family.

“It was lovely to put a face to a name and a face to somebody who I managed to save through the procedure”

Vicky Lawrence after her bone marrow transplant

Vicky Lawrence after her bone marrow transplant

For the first three years, Elliott wasn’t allowed to know anything about Vicky in case something happened to her because of the transplant.

However, Vicky’s parents could send anonymous correspondence with no names and addresses.

After the beginning of 2009, Elliott received an unexpected letter and card from her parents to inform him it was “so far so good” as she got through that Christmas. Her hair was growing back and they were extremely grateful that he was willing to help.

Elliott said it was “lovely to hear over the years that Vicky got back to normal activity”, which included her being a musician and an athlete.

However, Elliott initially decided against meeting up with the family when they waived their anonymity after the three years.

Vicky Lawrence with Elliott's two sons

Vicky Lawrence with Elliott’s two sons

“Initially, at the time, it was just nice to know that I helped and [I was] just content with that really,” Elliott said. “I did not feel that I needed to take things any further.”

But after moving to Mersea from Colchester in 2015, Elliott reconsidered the idea. He was going to write to her but Vicky beat him to it when he received a letter from her in May 2015.

The two finally met during Christmas in 2015 when Elliott went to see Vicky at her’s father house in Birmingham with his wife and two-month-old son.

“It was lovely to put a face to a name and a face to somebody who I managed to save through the procedure, just lovely, and also the family were extremely grateful for all we did,” Elliott said.

The pair have been in touch ever since they met. Elliot described Vicky as a lovely girl and they have become good friends.

“I want to do the marathon and what a great reason with Vicky”

Elliot Brock and Vicky Lawrence together with Anthony Nolan tops

Elliott Brock and Vicky Lawrence together with Anthony Nolan tops

Vicky came to Mersea in the summer of 2019 to see Elliott and suggested that they should do the London Marathon together.

Elliott accepted the offer after trying to get into the London Marathon for years.

“I want to do the marathon and what a great reason to do it with Vicky,” Elliott said.

Elliott and Vicky have been raising money for Anthony Nolan and have currently raised 86 per cent of their £5,000 target. The pair have been performing long-distance training as Elliott is in Essex and Vicky is in Newcastle.

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