Huge response to appeal for more stem cell donors after US man flies to UK to meet his lifesaver

Alex Christopher, who donated his stem cells to save Patrick Languzzi's life, came into the ITV studios with Pete McCleave to talk about the incredible response to their story that was aired on Granada Reports.

The moving scenes of a father from America meeting for the first time the Chorley man who saved his life, has encouraged hundreds of people to sign up to the stem cell donor register.

Patrick Languzzi is now cancer-free thanks to the stem cell donation provided by complete stranger Alex Christopher from Chorley.

Last week Patrick flew in to Heathrow airport to meet Alex for the first time and thank him for saving his life.

DKMS - the charity behind the stem cell donor register - say that in the week that the story aired on Granada Reports, more than 1300 people registered to sign up.

Alex had originally signed up to the register in a bid to help his friend Pete McCleave who was, and still is, waiting for a life-saving stem cell transplant.

He was not a match for Pete, but he was found to be a match for Patrick.

All three men, who say they now think of themselves as brothers, have thanked the generosity of ITV Granada Reports viewers for signing up to the register, in what they have described as an "incredible response" to their story.

Pete McCleave was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2017 and has potentially just two years to live unless he can find a stem cell match.

His friend and colleague Alex Christopher had signed up to the donor register in a bid to help Pete.

He was not a match, but he was found to be a match for a man in America, called Patrick Languzzi.

The father-of-one from Boston Massachusetts had been given a 3% chance of survival after being diagnosed with blood cancer and told he had just three months to live.

Patrick Languzzi, from Boston, had been given a 3% chance of survival before he had his stem cell transplant

The donation of Alex's stem cells saved his life, and Patrick is now cancer-free.

On 12 May 2022, Granada Reports broadcast the incredible moment when American father Patrick Languzzi flew in to Heathrow airport to meet the man from Chorley who donated his stem cells and saved his life.

Alex and Patrick met in person for the first time at Heathrow airport Credit: ITV News

"You've (Granada) covered this story for a quite some time now and the response has always been unbelievable with people showing interest and asking questions," Alex told Lucy Meacock, "but for me this time, it seems to have taken on a whole new level, because it's so much more tangible now that I've met Patrick in person."

"People can see the start to finish of my journey, and I think people have seen it now and want to be part of it themselves.

"They understand the magnitude of what I've done, even if I can't process it myself half the time and they see it as I want to do that, I can do that."

"I've been inundated with messages, not just people saying well done its amazing, but how can I do it, and how can I help?"

Pete set up his own campaign called 10000 donors in a bid to get more people to sign up to the donor register.

The campaign has already matched 17 patients with potentially life-saving donors, and encouraged more than 93,000 people to sign up to the donor register.

"I'm a walking example," Pete says, "of the health inequality that currently permeates the health system, especially around stem cell, blood, plasma and organ donation."

"Right now there just aren't enough people, pure numbers of people on the register, but also diversity is not broad enough either."

Pete McCleave needs a stem cell donation to save his life

"My background is Macanese - Chinese Portuguese, with a bit of Irish and English thrown in for good measure, so there are not many people from Macau, 40,000 globally, but second, third generation which is where I come in, even fewer, so there aren't enough people period on the register.

"You've got a 20% chance at best [of getting a match] if you're from a minority ethnic background."

Patrick was asked by Lucy, how important it was for him to find Pete a match and he said "the whole flight home I was trying to come up with some ideas on what I could do to help Pete."

"I'm determined to do what I can to help him.

"Because of his efforts, Alex ended up being my donor, and he was the only match I had in the entire world so I'm eternally grateful to both of these gentlemen (Alex and Pete).

"I'm determined to do what I can to help Pete here in the United States."

There is much more information on stem cell donation on the DKMS website here.

Find out more about Peter's campaign 10,000 Donors, and how to sign up to the stem cell donor register here, or follow the step-by-step guide below:

  • To sign up to the register all you need to do is register for a kit.

  • Once you have filled in the form, the DKMS will sent you a kit through the post.

  • When you receive your kit you carry out a simple cheek swab and send the sample back to the DKMS in the pre-paid envelope.

  • If you are lucky enough to get a call saying you're a match for someone, the donation process is just like giving blood.