In the middle of February I got a call.
I was a match.
The call was from the Anthony Nolan Trust. They find donor matches for people with blood cancer and organise the donation process from the start til the end. I joined the register in early 2013 thinking nothing of it. Gave a saliva sample, sent it away and that was me. I’ll be honest, I never, ever, expected to get a call telling me that I was a match. I think that’s quite a common thoyght behind it. At the time I probably thought, ‘Ahk I’ll just do it. It’s a good thing to do and you never know right?’ Boy was I shocked. The next stage of the process was to fill in a medical and have blood taken. Well I say blood…8 tubes of the red stuff was to be drained from me. I’ve previously had blood taken and also donated blood at one point. (For those who know me they will understand why I no longer can legally but that’s for another day).
During blood withdrawals I have been known to pass out, mainly because I’ve not had anything to eat before it. My own fault, I know! This time was different though. I was also very surprised at what seemed like a lack of awareness on the side of the nurses that saw me. I understand that they cant know about every condition and every group set up to support them, that’s fine. It also shows that Anthony Nolan really do need help to raise awareness.
There are only roughly 600,000 donors on the Register at present. So, when I presented the bag, the 8 vials, instructions on what to do etc to the Nurse I can definitely see why she was a bit overwhelmed with everything. She went to check with a colleague to make sure she had everything right and brought her back. Now I was nervous at this point, then I became even further uneasy. Why? Well when the colleague entered the room, she first asked if it was so that I could be on the register, I then said no i’m on the register. I’m a match for someone. Well that was her.
The ‘Hero Worship’ and ‘I am not worthy’ began. Me being me I just said its fine. Though I did feel very awkward and cringe worthy. That’ll be why I (attempted) to laugh it off no doubt. Anyway she disappeared and the first nurse started to take my bloods.
1, 2 , 3, 4 all fine.
5… Oh somethings happening.
6… Yea definitely going.
7…. My vision was getting narrower and it was getting darker.
8… I’m going. The nurse just kept saying hang on, nearly done. As soon as the 8th was finished, it was head back, knees up and cold compress on my head l. Thank God it was done, thats all I could keep thinking. I then had the task of going to the post office to send the samples away. Needless to say when I told the cashier what was in the parcel she just stared at me and didn’t really know what to reply to me. It would be another 8 weeks or so for them to do all the tests on the bloods and assess my medical questionnaire.
This week I heard back. Not only was I a match but all tests came back clear. It then got real. I was given a date for a medical which would be the next week and they had given me my ‘collection dates’. My recipient had requested that I give my donation as PSBC rather than a direct marrow collection. (PSBC, in my mind it is like dialysis for renal patients. They basically ‘clean’ your blood for stem cells and then it goes back into your body).
This is when it really hit me. Someone was depending on me. I really could save someones life, help them get better. I had been nervous up until this point. Now I got scared. This was evident when I phoned the Donor Co-ordinator.
I had questions running through my mind but I didn’t know how to ask them. It was the next day when I contacted them again when my head was in a better place. They have been so nice and positive and at not point have I felt pressured in to continuing the process. You really get the impression that staff want to make sure that donors are given the best support possible and I cannot fault them for the support that they have given me so far. All collections and medicals take place in London and they pay for everything and I mean that. They even pay for you to take someone with you to the medical. It really is a remarkable organisation.
I know nothing about the recipient, their age, gender, nationality and I wont until April 2017 at the earliest. I’m not going to lie, i’m still nervous and very scared but not for me. I’m nervous and scared for the other person. The treatment the recipient will be going through will effectively destroy their immune system so that they can recieve my stem cells.
I’m scared for them but I hope that this is successful. I hope after reading this, if you are eligible, you consider getting yourself onto the register.
The bigger the register the more chance people have of a match.
You could help save someones life.