A DAD is aiming to encourage more parents to donate their babies’ umbilical cords, after his son’s life was saved by a stem cell transplant.

Whalley resident Sam Fletcher went through the ‘most traumatic period’ of his life when his son, Charlie, now six, fell ill with a rare genetic disease called Fanconi Anemia last year.

The disorder, which affects one in 350,000 people, meant Charlie’s immune system did not function properly and left him fighting for his life.


He spent 12 months in and out of Manchester Children’s Hospital, going through radiotherapy, chemotherapy and one unsuccessful bone marrow transplant.

But eventually, Charlie, who goes to St Andrews School in Oswaldtwistle, received a successful transplant of stem cells from a donor umbilical cord, and was able to return to school in February.

Now Mr Fletcher, 32, who runs Blackburn marketing agency Twentyone, is calling for more awareness about the potential for umbilical cords to save people’s lives.

He said: “In the UK we throw away 99 per cent of umbilical cords, and research has found that most people aren’t aware they can donate them for the benefit of someone like Charlie.

“It’s a huge advance in science that’s not being utilised. Charlie has made a full recovery and has a healthy immune system now, but we were lucky that we found a match with someone in the USA. We want more people to donate their child’s umbilical cord but there’s only St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester where you can donate at the moment. This science saves lives and we need to do more.”

Sam has been campaigning with the Anthony Nolan charity to try and grow its donor register and umbilical cord blood bank, helping to find more matches and save more lives.

For more information, visit http://www.anthonynolan.org/