A young west Belfast woman with cancer has found a vital stem cell match, amid a huge rise in new donors across Northern Ireland, after a campaign featured on UTV.
Eimear Smyth desperately needed to find a donor after suffering a second relapse of non-Hodgkin lymphoma – and finding out neither of her siblings was a match.
After appearing on UTV Live in August, the 24-year-old is now preparing for a transplant in Dublin later this month.
“When I heard, it was a mixture of excitement and anxiety,” she said.
“It was a really big obstacle to find a match and now I've found that match, there’s a real excitement - but there’s still a big hurdle to overcome.
“It’s just so overwhelming. It’s amazing to think someone has done it for me. It’s unreal.”
According to the Anthony Nolan charity, just 69 people across Northern Ireland registered online to become stem cell donors last year.
This year, that number has risen to 1,796 - the equivalent of a 2,502% increase.
They really rally behind you in Northern Ireland - people treat you as one of their own. There’s a real feeling of that.
Eimear knew the search for a donor was her best chance of survival. Now, for the first time ever, her doctors are very positive about her prognosis.
“To have cancer three times and to hear the word ‘cure’, that’s remarkable. I’m over the moon with that. If that can be my future - fingers crossed - then I’m all for that,” she said.
“I’ll just sit back and do what I’m told until then.”
Eimear’s father Sean was behind the campaign to find the life-saving treatment for his daughter and made that heartfelt plea on UTV Live two months ago.
“The UTV Live went massive, it’s been amazing,” Eimear said.
“So many generous people coming forward to be tested.
“It was incredible, but without the coverage and social media, it would not have got so much publicity and I’m really glad we did it.”
After Eimear’s transplant in a few weeks’ time, it will be a waiting game to see how her body responds to the stem cells.
But the hope is that, by this time next year, Eimear will be well enough to celebrate her wedding to her fiancé Philip.
For help & support and to find out how to become a stem cell donor and what it involves: