Ex-Olympian makes history again… as oldest man in country to have bone marrow transplant

By Ian Mitchelmore

A former Olympian and champion sprinter has made history again after becoming the oldest man in the country to have a bone marrow transplant – right here at Manchester Royal Hospital.

Grandfather-of-two Alf Meakin, who competed at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, went under the knife after being diagnosed with leukaemia earlier this year.

The ex-sprinter, 75, needed months of chemotherapy before having the landmark operation at the Manchester Royal.

Alf, of Blackpool, Lancs, who was also a gold medallist at the 1962 Perth Empire Games, was taking 30 pills a day when the illness was at its worst.

TRIUMPHANT: Alf in his days as an althete, winning the race (Pictures courtesy of Caters)

But a 20-year-old donor came to his rescue and he is now making a full recovery with his wife, Joy, at their family home.

Alf said: “I’m a very lucky man. I’ve got great support around me and my wife Joy has been my rock.

“People have talked to me like I’m some kind of hero but it’s the doctors and the young donor who are the real heroes.

“It’s fantastic the way science has evolved because without this operation I wouldn’t be here today.

“I think my Olympic background might have helped me aswell and I’ve always enjoyed going for walks and keeping in good health with my close friend who has been very supportive.”

Alf endured gruelling cancer treatment at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital, when he finished his final session of chemotheraphy he was operated on by surgeons in Manchester.

He was diagnosed in April this year and eventually had a life-saving transplant in September.

Three months on, he is feeling better than ever as the country’s oldest transplant receiver.

ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY: Alf relaxing at home after the operation (Pictures courtesy of Caters)

Alf added: “I had times where I was feeling very low and I was really struggling but my family and friends were always there to pick me up.

“I was incredibly unlucky to have the illness in the first place but I can’t describe how amazing it feels to be given the chance to live again.

“I heard so many horror stories about the illness and it was a very frightening experience.”

Alf, who also claimed a bronze medal at the 1962 European Athletics Championships in Belgrade, ran alongside USA sprinter Bob Hayes who is the only man to win an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl title.

Alf added: “It was fantastic to run alongside such an Olympic hero.

“He’s now a legend in the athletics world and in American football so I do feel very honoured when I look back at my career.”

His wife Joy, 71, takes him to Manchester twice a week for check-ups and the former quick-footed athlete is hoping to run rings around his grandchildren, five-year-old Harry and Molly, who is three, when he makes a full recovery.

Alf added: “I have two wonderful grandchildren but they didn’t really understand what was going on when I was ill.

“They’ve just been a real breath of fresh air because they’re both always full of energy and it’s brilliant to know I’ll be able to see them growing up.”

Doctors have said the former Olympian is making ‘remarkable’ progress.

A spokesman for Cancer Research UK said: “I have never heard of a 75-year-old patient having a successful bone marrow transplant – his athletic background has clearly turned him into a medical marvel.

“He would have had to gone through rigorous health checks before consultants put him forward for a transplant as it is such a risky procedure – even a 30-year-old would struggle to withstand the transplant.

“It is very, very unusual for an elderly person to have this type of transplant as the risk of infection is so high.

“But it is very good to hear he is doing so well and on the road to recovery.”

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