"To date 4 people recruited
by Matt's Match
Personal Donor Account.
Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street,
London, NW3 2QG
T: 020 7284 1234 F: 020 7284 8226
I attended a Recruitment Clinic and provided a small blood sample in 2005 when the daughter of a friend of mine urgently needed a bone marrow transplant to save her life. (Incidentally, a match was found and she is now fit and healthy and enjoying life – and so are eight others for whom donors were found at those clinics.) I discovered soon afterwards that in most cases it is not actually bone marrow which is donated, but the stem cells in the blood which are vital for new cells being created.
I was contacted a few weeks later to be told that I was a potential match for someone – when becoming a volunteer donor you agree for your details to be entered on the register of potential donors. Further blood tests confirmed that my blood was a close enough match and a ‘blood stem cell harvest’ was arranged. I was given a thorough health check, to ensure that I was fit enough to donate without any risk to me. For four days prior to the harvest, I was given an injection to boost the creation of white blood cells, thus providing the excess blood cells to be donated. Apparently, you can experience stiffness in your joints because of the excess blood cells, but this was negligible. A nurse came to my home or work place to give these injections.
The day before the harvest, my wife and I travelled to London. In the afternoon I was given a further health check. I went along to the hospital in Harley Street the next day. By 9.30 in the morning I was attached to a machine and the vital blood stem cells were being harvested. Essentially, the harvest involves blood passing through a sieve in a machine which catches the excess cells. It took about four hours for enough cells to be harvested. All the time this was going on, I was watching TV, drinking coffee and eating sandwiches. The process is entirely painless, there was no discomfort and I was only left feeling tired afterwards. I went out for a meal that evening and returned home the following day. My employer gave me the time off but ‘The Anthony Nolan Trust’ will reimburse any costs incurred with donating, including loss of earnings if appropriate.
The identity of the patient is not disclosed to the donor and vice versa and initially the donation felt a purely clinical, anonymous process. The care, support and guidance by ‘The Anthony Nolan Trust’ was fantastic – I did feel as though I carried a special gift.
Some months later I received a card. It came, via ‘The Anthony Nolan Trust’, from my recipient. The card thanked me for my donation and told me that ‘on day 37 since the transplant, everything was going well.’ The next card told me that my cells were beating the host cancerous cells. The next card told me that my cells had taken over the host cells and my patient was clear of cancerous cells. He was about to take his first holiday in over four years. Essentially, through the cards, I came to see how that clinical process had literally given someone life. Four hours from me gave someone their life back!
I’m not an ambassador for ‘The Anthony Nolan Trust’. I’m just someone who wanted to help a friend and ending up being a potential life saver. There was no pain, no inconvenience and no discomfort. 'Now it’s your chance to help someone'. Please attend a volunteer clinic and join the bone marrow donor register.
Gary Hammersley, Northampton