Danny Keeling is 25 years old, and a Front Desk Agent at Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. Last year, after registering as an Anthony Nolan stem cell donor, Danny learned that he had been selected as a match for someone with blood cancer – and after donating, he was inspired to raise lifesaving funds for our cause with a series of Pride in London events.
Why I signed up to save lives
It has been just over a year since I donated my stem cells, and over two years since I joined the Anthony Nolan register.
I joined after a conversation with my friend about homosexual men not being able to give blood, and he told me that there isn’t such restriction with stem cell donation.
I have always thought it was ridiculous that gay men are not able to give blood in the UK, so when I heard I could join the Anthony Nolan register I was absolutely thrilled. The fact that as a homosexual man, I was able to join the register and potentially save another person’s life was just amazing. I signed up right away.
My stem cell donation experience
I was really surprised and shocked when I received the call, but also so pleased to know that it was happening. I felt like the motions were being put into place for something really big, something very special.
Before the donation itself, I was more anxious than anything. I did have to have my blood re-tested a few times, as the stem cell donation kept being postponed due to the patient’s health.
This made me think about the patient a lot. All I kept thinking was, ‘What I’m doing might be able to save their life.’
The clinic staff were wonderful, and kept me very calm during and after the donation, and it was very comfortable to the point I would say nearly relaxing. The donation wasn’t painful at all – some minor discomfort in preparation, but nothing different than the day after a heavy gym session.
What really appealed to me about donating stem cells is that unlike the blood bank, there is no stem cell bank. Your donation is sent direct to the patient who is waiting and prepared, and there is no chance of wastage: be that time, resources or even charity money that could be better spent elsewhere.
I knew I was directly making a difference to someone’s life, potentially even saving their life, which isn’t something you can say every day!
Take Me Home and Pride in London
After my donation I really wanted to get more involved with raising awareness of Anthony Nolan – specifically, within the gay community.
Every year I work with an arts collaborative called Take Me Home Projects, creating exhibitions to raise money for a chosen charity. So for this year’s Pride in London show, we shall be holding a night of performances in Miranda, Ace Hotel’s basement bar in Shoreditch.
We have the brilliant group The LipSinkers, the performance artist Bella & The Lordwarfs and comedian Joe Sutherland – in which I wish to thank them all for their support for this event.
Obviously a night of queer performance is nothing unusual for Pride in London week – but I will be donating half of the proceeds to Anthony Nolan from it and also collecting donations through the night. Most importantly, I wish to spread awareness of the charity and ask people to sign up to the register the following day.
I am determined to get young men to sign up, as they usually make the best donors, and are six times more likely to donate, but only make up just 15% of the register.
I want to spread the message that the register does not discriminate against sexuality, and these people could potentially save people’s lives.
My Anthony Nolan Supporter Award
When I first found out I had been nominated for an Anthony Nolan Supporter Award, I was shocked but delighted. All I wanted to do was raise awareness to people to join the register and let people know my story of how easy and painless it was for me to donate. There is nothing truly more gratifying than that original phone call saying you have the potential to give someone life again.
The event itself held in the Houses of Parliament was brilliant – not only I got to remeet all the team which supported me through the donation again but I was able to meet other donors and families who had benefited from Anthony Nolan’s support – that in itself made it worthwhile.
My ANSA didn’t find a home for a few months but now since I recently moved it sits proudly on the top shelf of what is basically my bar/bookshelf. Sometimes it can be a social point when I am entertaining – other times it is a gentle reminder to myself of the work and effort I put in to be commended for such an award.