After Max donated his stem cells to potentially save someone’s life, he felt ‘overwhelmingly happy’ and was inspired to do more. Shocked that more people weren’t aware of stem cell donation, he decided that 2019 was the year for a big challenge with the help of the most powerful mathematical force in the universe…
When my friend ran the Paris Marathon, instead of raising money for a charity he asked his friends and family to join the Anthony Nolan stem cell register. I signed up just over three years ago.
Once on the register, if you come up as a match for a patient with blood cancer or a blood disorder, you could possibly save their life by donating your stem cells.
A few months ago I got the call. I was potentially a match for someone!
The donation process itself was really straightforward
I had blood tests to confirm that I was definitely a compatible donor – and I was! Then I had a medical check, we looked at diaries and within a few weeks the donation date was booked in. I donated through my bloodstream, which is the most common method.
On each of the four days leading up to donation day, I was visited at work and at home by a nurse to have an injection. These injections make your bone marrow release more stem cells.
The first day I didn’t notice anything. The next morning when I woke up I had heavy backache, took paracetamol and got on with the day. Day three I was very lethargic, had a headache and was more achy in general.. periodically I would briefly feel some odd and quite intense sensations in my ribs and back. On day four I was very tired, experienced a dull ache all over and had more sensations again in my back and ribs.
Going through this relatively minor discomfort made the whole process more meaningful – as well as giving me huge appreciation for my general well-being, it made me reflect on the pain the recipient must be going through and how important what I was doing really was to them and their loved ones.
The donation itself was completely pain free and went smoothly. I sat in a hospital bed for half a day, while a very clever and complex looking machine took my blood, separated out the stem cells and then circulated my blood back in again.
I felt overwhelmingly happy afterwards, as the significance of what had just happened really began to set in. Someone was getting my stem cells and now had a fighting chance.
The stats are eye opening
Every day, at least five people start searching for an unrelated stem cell donor, but many of them can struggle to find a matching donor.
When I found that out, I started thinking about why this was and what could be done.
I knew that a donor needs to be a genetic match – which means that unlike giving blood, it’s very unique. You might be the only person in the world that can donate to them.
But if you’re not on the stem cell register, they won’t be able to find you. After a bit more reading, I discovered that only 2% of the UK population are on the register (1.4 million people at the end of 2017) and I wanted to help improve this.
I kept thinking, it was so easy for me to do, why aren’t more people signing up?
I’ve been telling people about my experience of donating. So many people just aren’t aware of how simple it is and don’t know how to join the register. Talking to them about it and helping to educate more people is the best way to spread the word. So I set myself a target of finding 50 people who were willing to sign up. Then, I remembered a fact about compounding…
Einstein said compounding was the most powerful mathematical force in the universe. One common example is: if you take 1 penny and double it every day, after 31 days how much would you end up with? Most people guess thousands, but actually it’s over £10.7 million!
I thought about my target of 50. What if those 50 people each found two new people who were willing to sign up? That would be 100 extra. If they then told another two people, 350 new donors could be registered.
I realised that if this carried on, the potential number of new donors on the stem cell register could reach very high numbers. So, I did a spreadsheet…
My 1.6 million donors challenge
I want to do as much as I can to help more people find potentially lifesaving matches. So, I’ve launched the Chain Reaction Challenge. The aims are:
- I’ll start by telling more people about my experience to find 50 people willing to join the stem cell register
- Each person then spreads the word further to find two more people willing to register (100 new donors, total 150)
- Those 100 new donors each find two more people willing to register (200 new donors, total 350)
If this continued, by the 15th ‘link in the chain’ there would be over 1.6 million new donors registered.
Funds are essential to helping Anthony Nolan add each new potential donor to the stem cell register. I’ve also pledged to donate £10 every time someone signs up to the register, until I reach my goal of 50.
How you can help
Would you be willing to donate your stem cells to give someone a second chance at life? If yes, sign up to the register here.
If you’re not able to, please consider telling other people about the challenge or giving some money to Anthony Nolan. You can still make a difference to people with blood cancer.
If you want to find out more about Max’s challenge, you can follow his progress on the ‘Chain Reaction Challenge’ Facebook page.