At Anthony Nolan, we use our groundbreaking technology to match patients in need with stem cell donors across the UK. That includes potential donors from our register – and potential donors from our colleagues at sister registries, as well, like the British Bone Marrow Registry (a division of NHS Blood & Transplant).
In today’s blog, we’re hearing from Sue, who registered with the BBMR, and donated her stem cells in 2006.
My stem cell donation story
I joined the British Bone Marrow Registry a few years ago now, after becoming a blood donor at a mobile clinic.
For a while, I didn’t hear anything – then in February 2006, I got a letter, stating that I was a match for a stem cell donor. I’d recently had my thyroid removed, so I had to check that it wasn’t an issue!
I had to go to hospital in south London, for my pre-checks and where the donation took place. My nurse knew it was going overseas, but couldn’t tell me anything else; at the end of the first day, she had to check to make sure there was enough and there was, so I only needed one long day.
Afterwards, the nurses found my potassium was a little low, so I had to eat five bananas within 24 hours.
They were short-staffed on the ward that day; two other people came in. One was a patient who was undergoing an autologous transplant (using the patient’s own preserved cells), and another guy came in who’d been a recipient and wanted to see how it worked.
I never felt worried about donating – I was very reassured. On the third day of the GCSF injections, I felt like I had the flu, and I was a little bit groggy for a couple of days afterwards.
I’m not too bad with needles and it was fairly painless. Personally, it felt really good to do it.
Years later, I discovered that my recipient had passed away. Some people said to me, ‘Well, why bother, then?’ But I’d given that person more time to be alive, more time to be with their loved ones. Why wouldn’t that be worthwhile?
I’m a volunteer now, encouraging people to be donors, especially in the Jewish community. I’m Jewish myself, and I know that transplant recipients need to find a donor with the same ethnic background.
If you’re thinking about joining a stem cell donor register, I can only say this; just sign up. It’s something fantastic that doesn’t cost anything – like blood donation, only it takes a bit longer.
If you’re 16-30 and interested in joining the Anthony Nolan register, click the button below. If you’re over 30, you can find out more about signing up through the British Bone Marrow Registry here.