A GODMOTHER has given ‘the gift of life’ in the year that would have marked her godson’s 21st birthday.

Sonia Garrod, 51, signed up to be on the stem cell and bone marrow donation register in 1999 after finding out nine-year-old Alex Charnley was suffering from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

She said she had forgotten about it, believing she was too old to donate, until she received a letter saying she could be a match.

Mrs Garrod, who lives in Old Langho with her husband John, said: “This year, Alex would have turned 21, so it seemed like fate.

“Alex inspired me to join the register, but I had heard nothing at all until I got the letter.”

The nurse was invited to London, with expenses paid by the Anthony Nolan Trust, a charity that helps people with blood cancer who need a blood stem cell, or bone marrow transplant.

A keen footballer, Alex was a pupil at St Gabriel's CE Primary School and had been spotted by a local scout to play one night a week at Blackburn Rover's School of Excellence.

He received a successful stem cell transplant from his brother, but unfortunately died in 2001.

Mrs Garrod is now encouraging people to consider donating.

She said: “If anybody was thinking about joining the donation register I would say absolutely go for it.

“You are never at risk, they will look after you to the nth degree and you get a check-up as well.

“You are potentially helping somebody which is the best thing you can do.”

Ellen Marshall, from the Anthony Nolan Trust, said the organisation recruited people between the ages of 16 and 30 and that donors would stay on the register until they were 60.

“If you come up as a match, you go to one of our collection centres, where you are linked up to a machine.

“A tube is put in one arm, which filters your stem cells and then the blood goes back in the other arm.

“It is incredibly important to donate stem cells and bone marrow.

“We can only find a match for about half of the people who come to us for a transplant.

“For them it is usually their last chance.”

To find out more about the Anthony Nolan Trust and to join the register, visit www.anthonynolan.org.