For the last seven years, Callum Kennedy-Mann, 23, has been working as a lifeguard in London, and has a vast amount of experience saving lives when supervising people in the water. However, it was in early 2020 where Callum was able to save a life in a very different way.

Callum completed his NPLQ when he was 16 and has been working as a lifeguard ever since in Hampstead Heath. He now lifeguards at two open water swimming ponds and a 65m unheated lido.

Callum said, “We’ve become a very popular swimming destination in recent years, running at capacity for weeks on end during summer hot-spells and even being the topic of a documentary on Netflix!”

At the same age as completing his NPLQ, Callum also signed up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register. In 2019 he received a call just before he left for university, aged 18, informing him he was a genetic match for an American blood cancer patient, who had two aggressive forms of leukaemia and desperately needed a stem cell transplant.

Callum was used to saving lives at work, so when the opportunity arose outside of the pool, he naturally wanted to help. He explains, “I didn’t hesitate in saying I’d do it after they told me I was the best possible match. It was instinctive for me, knowing I could have a huge impact on someone’s life.”

Speaking on his rescues, Callum said, “During a trip to Kent, I ended up rescuing a child from the harbour. The child was paddling in a rubber ring with his friends and, as the harbour emptied at low-tide, he became caught in the out-flow and started to be swept out to sea through the harbour mouth. I managed to rescue the child by towing them, against the current, back to the escape ladder on the opposite side of the harbour mouth; the severity of the rescue only dawned on me when a coastguard helicopter started hovering overhead!

“I’ve also conducted several rescues whilst on duty. Rescues are more common during hot spells, particularly when sunny weather immediately follows on from a cold period. In these conditions, our facilities are very busy and – despite our warnings – novice cold-water swimmers are often caught off-guard by cold water shock. Our team are excellent at preventing rescues before they occur but, inevitably, we sometimes have to get wet.”

Callum’s compassionate nature was clear as, after medical checks, he donated his stem cells in London. A few months later he made contact with the lady’s family and was relieved to hear she was recovering well.

He said, “That was the most emotional moment for me – receiving a letter telling me she was alive.”

Two years later, Callum learned the lady who had received his donation was named Diane and she was continuing to do well since the transplant and with his donation he had saved her life.

Diane then offered Callum the chance to visit Pennsylvania, USA where she lived with her family. Callum booked his flights and together with his girlfriend, flew across the pond to spend Thanksgiving with Diane and her family.

Callum Kennedy-Mann with his girlfriend (Ellie) and Diane and her husband (Alfonso)

“From the second I saw her at the airport, meeting Diane was so natural – I felt like I already knew her, and we didn’t feel like strangers at all.”

Diane said, “Callum is my guardian angel and to have the opportunity to host him and his girlfriend over Thanksgiving holiday was a true blessing. I am so thankful for Anthony Nolan and will be forever grateful to Callum for his kind and selfless sacrifice.”

Callum recently completed his Bachelor’s degree in History and Politics. He will be beginning his Masters degree in Politics in September 2023 with ambition to become a political researcher or analyst.

For now, Callum continues to keep people safe in the water as he lifeguards in London. Callum said, “Our job is often challenging when it’s busy, but the pressure of these situations forges enduring friendships that extend beyond work. On top of this, I get to spend my working days in fresh air, surrounded by nature. Even when we’re at our busiest, I still feel lucky to spend my summer days in such a picturesque setting.”

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