When Elise Smith joined our register in June 2013 she never expected to become a stem cell donor twice nor did she expect to find love – but she did.
Her decision to help others kick-started her date with destiny and set her on her path to meet her future husband to discuss being a donor.
Getting the call
I joined the Anthony Nolan register in June 2013. My auntie’s friend’s daughter had leukaemia and was looking for a donor so I joined the register and so did my cousins. I’m the only one to have been a match so far!
They say you’re most likely not to get the call so I did the spit test and thought nothing else of it. I’d been on the register for six months at the most when I got the call to say I was a match. It was quite surprising. I had a voicemail and missed calls, and my mum’s down as my alternative contact so she’d been called as well. I was really eager to do it.
The best match
I had a blood test and a medical and was told two days before Christmas that I had been chosen as the best match. My mum and I flew down to London for it in February 2014 – we didn’t get to do any sightseeing because it poured with rain the whole time. A visitor from Anthony Nolan came and helped it feel more real.
My recipient was a woman and because the doctors couldn’t collect enough stem cells on the first day I had to do it again the next day. I received a card from the patient a few weeks later and I know she’s still alive and doing well, but we haven’t had direct contact. I would love to know who it is, but obviously the ball’s in her court. For me, with something like this, if you’re in it then you’re in it 100%. If she ever needs anything else – bone marrow, a top-up, the skin off my back – she can have it.
A while after that I was contacted by the friend of a friend, Matt Smith, who was also signed up with Anthony Nolan but wanted to chat to someone who’d actually done the donation. We met up for a coffee and a chat, and that was that – we’re now married!
Lifesaver twice over
I thought it was really unlikely that I’d ever be a donor again. In August 2017 I got a phone call to say I was a match again, which apparently is really rare. I got time off work and this time I went with Matt for the donation in December. It was a two-day donation again, and it was raining again! We were supposed to fly down to London but it was so cold that parts of the plane froze so we got the train instead! I got home at 8pm and was in work the next day at 6am. I felt fine afterwards, just a bit drained, and you are advised to take a few days off!
Easy, painless experience
It was the easiest, most painless experience you could ever have. The staff from Anthony Nolan and the people doing the injections were all brilliant. Even now it doesn’t seem real that I’ve done it twice; because you don’t know the other person it’s not something that affects you directly. I have told people about it though, a lot of regulars who come into McDonald’s where I work know I’ve done it and ask me about it. I don’t think there’s enough awareness, especially in Scotland away from the big cities, about what stem cell donation is.
I’ve been told I can only donate to two people so I’ve been taken off the register, but I’m still available for my two recipients in case they need a top-up. Matt is quite jealous now, he wants a turn!
We can’t promise you’ll find love, but you’ll help save lives by telling all the young men in your life about our #BeALifesaver campaign. Find out more about how to join our stem cell register and be a potential lifesaver.