Hannah knows more than most the difference a matching stem cell donor can make. So when she got the chance to donate herself, it meant the world to her. This is Hannah’s donation story.
When I got the call to say I was a match for someone, it felt like it was my chance to give back. My friend Josie was diagnosed with leukaemia when we were 18 and Anthony Nolan found the donor that saved her life. Now I could try to do the same for someone else. I was so thrilled.
I told Josie straight away and she was jumping for joy in her office! She knows first hand what it will mean to the patient. I kept thinking about them, and their family and friends too, knowing what a massive thing this would be for them. It’s thanks to her donor that we all still have Josie with us today.
It’s hard to put it into words to be honest, but it felt like the most important thing I’ll probably ever do in my life.
A birthday I won’t forget
The day of my donation ended up being my birthday! A very memorable birthday! Josie came into hospital to sit with me during my donation, which was really great.
It was strange to think that the day I was born is also now the day that I hopefully gave someone a second chance at life. Hopefully it’s a new birthday for her and maybe one day we’ll be celebrating together!
I’m going to send her an anonymous letter through Anthony Nolan, just to wish her well. It’s amazing really, to be able to help a complete stranger – we’re all so much more connected than we realise.
The whole donation process is really easy and everything is looked after by Anthony Nolan, which was fantastic. The donation itself doesn’t hurt and always in your mind is how much of a difference you’re making to the person who needs your stem cells. That’s what keeps you going. Why wouldn’t you do it? I’d do it again!
The kindness of strangers
When I’ve told people I donated to an anonymous stranger, they just can’t believe it. People assume that if you’re a donor, it must be for someone in your family or someone you know. For me, it’s really amazing to think I have this connection with someone out there.
It also made me realise that a lot of people don’t know about stem cell donation and the difference it can make – so I thought what better opportunity to raise some awareness and some money for this amazing charity.
I created a JustGiving page to tell people what I was doing and ask them to consider donating to Anthony Nolan. The response was overwhelming. People were really amazed by what I was doing. They were so generous and blew my target out of the water – I’d optimistically put in a target of £500 but I reached that in 24 hours! I ended up raising over £1,300 which I was so pleased with. It costs so much money to find those matches for people and organise it all, so I was really glad I could give a bit of that back.
I’ve also had lots of people I don’t know contacting me – people who have had a transplant or their loved one has, or they know someone who’s still poorly – to tell me what a difference I’m making. It’s been phenomenal. It’s made me cry a few times.
I know a couple of people have now joined the register, which is amazing too. I had no idea I would get the response that I did. People really do want to help!
It’s a wonderful thing to be part of a lifesaving community
The thing is – you never know in your life when you’ll be affected by blood cancer, it could happen to any of us or anyone we care about. If you join the register, you’ll be ready in case someone needs you. And hopefully, if you or someone you know ever need a transplant, there will be someone ready to help them. I just think it’s something we should all do.
It’s so easy to sign up and if you’re a match, it’s all such a positive experience. Ultimately – you could save somebody’s life and that’s a phenomenal gift to be able to give. I don’t think you get many other chances like that in your life!
I’m so grateful that there was a donor ready and willing to help Josie. Nobody should be in the position where they can’t find a potentially lifesaving donor match, but sadly that does still happen. So please join the register, give money, raise awareness – do whatever you can. It’s such a wonderful thing to be part of this lifesaving community.
If you’ve been inspired by Hannah’s story and want to join our lifesaving community, we’d love to have you on board. Visit anthonynolan.org to find out more.