Stephen Angell is one of our amazing donors – he gave a stem cell donation in July 2015 and helped a patient in desperate need. Read Stephen’s story to find out what it’s like to donate stem cells, and why he’s proud to be a donor.
I joined the stem cell register at a recruitment event at my sixth form college. Anthony Nolan gave a compelling presentation showing just how easy and life-changing donation could be. I couldn’t think of a reason not to sign up! [find out more about our Register & Be A Lifesaver programme in schools here]
Initially it did slip to the back of my mind because the spit kit test was so simple and quick, although I did do a little bit of reading around on the internet as I had no idea about Anthony Nolan or bone marrow transplants. I was a little bit sceptical of PBSC transplants as they almost sounded too easy to be true! [watch the process of donation in our video here]
Stephen finds out he is a potential match
More than a year later, I left my last lesson one Friday afternoon to find a missed call and a text from Anthony Nolan. I called back as quickly as possible to find I had a potential match.
Everything was explained to me over the phone, and a few days later I received a really helpful pack explaining what would be happening over the next few months.
It was a really exciting time – I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and family. It was almost like the cliché you hear prize-winners say on TV: ‘Things like this never happen to normal people like me.’ I was really chuffed.
Dealing with misconceptions around donation
90% of the time, though, anyone who hadn’t been shown the Anthony Nolan presentation would either cringe or wince when I said ‘bone marrow transplant’.
Their replies would usually either be, ‘Ooooh, that sounds nasty!’ or, ‘That’s really dangerous, you know.’
A few people told me that there’d be a lot of drilling into my spine and I was given all sorts of horror stories. I can’t even count how many times I had to explain just how easy PBSC transplants are! [find out more about the myths and reality of donation here].
I have to admit that after sending away my first blood tests I did get a little bit anxious about the donation; everything became real and official. I could actually be saving a person’s life. It was all a bit much to take in!
However, there were loads of great resources on the Anthony Nolan website [find out more here] and Anthony Nolan was always there to answer any of my questions.
Stephen’s stem cell donation – ‘The entire experience was a pleasure’
In the end, I donated in July 2015, at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire – one week ago at the time of writing! I was a bit tired the day after my donation, but a good night’s sleep solved that and I’m feeling great again.
The entire experience was a pleasure. From Day 1, Anthony Nolan has been there to give me any information I needed.
They arranged transport and accommodation for me and my friend, and even popped in for a visit to make sure everything was OK and to give me information about what happens next for me and my recipient.
The nurses were lovely and a great laugh. The process itself couldn’t have been easier. A little needle scratch was all I felt as they hooked me up to the machine. The nurses explained everything that was happening and made sure I was happy and comfortable.
We played a few games of Frustration with the nurses (we quickly learned that nurses always win) and they even brought some DVDs in for us to watch; we were out the door by lunchtime. It was as easy as that!
‘You could already be somebody’s hero – and not even know it’
All I’d say to anyone who’s thinking about signing up is this: what do you have to lose and what do they have to gain? By doing something so simple you could be completely transforming the life of not just a cancer patient, but their children, partner, parents, friends or anyone who cares about them.
We’d all like to think that a stranger would step up in our time of need, but sometimes we’re that stranger! You could already be somebody’s hero and not even know it.
If you’re aged 16-30, you can join the bone marrow register and become a potential donor at www.anthonynolan.org/register