Warren is part of a very exclusive club – the two-time lifesavers who’ve given both a stem cell and a bone marrow donation. Here, he shares his story.
I’ve been donating blood for 30 years – 8 years ago, I heard about bone marrow transplants. So I asked the nurse about stem cell donation, and sent off a sample.
In 2015, I was contacted by NHSBT; I was a potential match. They told me, ‘In this case, we’re going to need bone marrow,’ I was fine with that. After all, I’d signed up because I wanted to do something!
I have people in my family who’ve died of cancer. So having a chance to help someone beat it and hopefully then, they will be able to live the rest of their life free from it.
I was really excited, but I was also worried that my recipient – a young boy – wouldn’t be well enough for a transplant. I just kept thinking how dreadful it must be for him and his family. I was just hoping it’d be OK.
My bone marrow donation
On the day of my bone marrow donation, the London Clinic’s doctors and nurses were wonderful. They always took the time to chat with you and explain everything.
I walked over to the theatre, chatted to the surgeon…and all I remember is waking up in the theatre afterwards. The pain I felt was sharpish, that’s all – I’d do it again, it wouldn’t bother me.
I work for Tesco’s, at Licfield Distribution centre. They gave me the time off I needed to recover, paid and everything. Management supported me through it – it was really kind of them.
Six months later, I heard back. The recipient was doing well.
My stem cell donation
19 months on, I had another phone call. My recipient needed some platelets. There was no question of whether I’d donate again – I didn’t go into this for the short term.
I actually thought bone marrow donation was easier than donating stem cells. The injections made me feel a bit flu-y and achy, but I knew once I donated I’d be back to normal.
After all, this poor boy and family had been through so much pain and suffering; what I was doing was minimal by comparison.
Donation day itself was absolutely fine. It was very simply, no different from donating blood except I had to stay sitting down for longer, as the donation itself takes around four hours . I didn’t have to lift a finger, all meals and drinks are free!
My unexpected meeting
I was wearing my Anthony Nolan T-shirt one day, in the local DIY shop, as I walked in, a lady and gentleman in front looked around and smiled at me.
After a moment, the man came back and said, ‘Oh, do you work for Anthony Nolan?’
I said, ‘No, I’ve donated.’
He shook my hand and said, ‘If it wasn’t for someone like you, my daughter wouldn’t be here.’
She’d been diagnosed in 2003 – she’s a happy, healthy girl now. His wife was welling up just telling the story!
I had a smile across my face all day. You don’t see the other side, as a donor!
I’d tell everyone to sign up, if they can. It could make all the difference.