25-year-old Patrick gives “the most incredible gift” on his 25th birthday

22 December 2017

“My name is Patrick, I am 25 years old and if you had told me 18 months ago I would be a blood stem cell donor I would never have believed you. So what changed?

I play for my local football club in the Essex Olympian League and have done from the age of eight. A family within the club had some terrible news just over two years ago when their little girl, Hattie, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and immediately started chemotherapy.

They are an amazing family and Hattie’s mum Katie set up an inspirational Facebook page called ‘Hattie’s Heroes’ to keep everybody updated with Hattie’s progress and the things being done to help rather than keep repeating the same conversations time and time again to the many well wishers.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse Katie’s brother Matt who is one of the sponsors of the football club was suddenly diagnosed with testicular cancer. Matt is a professional golfer and this could easily have meant the end of his career.

Hattie and her uncle Matt
Hattie with her uncle, Matt.

Matt, like Hattie, was determined that he could have the surgery, and make tour school with a hope to qualify in just three months. Incredibly, he did this and placed 4th and 2nd in the Irish Open as well as an 11th and 6th in the British Open!

Hattie had some really dark times where sadly she lost a number of her incredible friends that she made at Great Ormond Street hospital but her family refused to believe that she would not recover.

A lifesaving pledge

Our football club decided to organise a charity day. Harriet Southgate, Katie’s sister had pledged to get 1,000 donors signed up to the stem cell registry and was busy campaigning within various companies to get people to swab as potential blood stem cell donors.

She also organised for the DKMS donor recruitment team to come to our charity day. It was there that I, along with many others, gave a swab sample to be put onto the stem cell registry. In all honesty I never really thought I would hear anything again.

Harriet and her sisters – Katie, mum to Hattie, and Anna
Harriet with her sisters, Katie (Hattie's mum) and Anna.

A surprising call

However, out of the blue, 16 months later I received a call at work to say that I was potentially a match for somebody in need of a blood stem cell donation and would I consider having some further blood tests done to see if I might be a possible donor.

With Hattie improving incredibly and Matt doing so well, after all that they had been through, it didn’t take me any time at all to decide that I should do this, even though the thought of hospitals and injections was one of my biggest fears. Having agreed to do it, an appointment was made on my behalf to attend the hospital where an extensive medical and numerous blood samples were taken. Everything was arranged for me and all I had to do was turn up.

From the outset the help that I was given, both to allay my fears and also to make the process as smooth as possible, was superb. All the way through I was totally reassured that whilst there could be some side effects these would be fairly minor, short-lived and that what I was doing was giving somebody something amazing – a second chance of life.

That feeling is difficult to describe and just knowing that you can make a difference, not only to them, but their family and everyone who knows them, makes you realise that you are able to give the most incredible gift.

You don’t know the patient, but you want to. Who is this person that I am so closely matched to? As the process goes on you find out little bits, I know the recipient is an adult from the UK, and also it might be likely that I would be required to give donations of stem cells over two days as it may not be possible to provide enough in the one transfusion.

After a small setback, where the operation was put back due to the recipient not being healthy enough to go ahead, we suddenly got the green light. Ironically the blood stem cell donation was now scheduled to take place on my 25th birthday.

I underwent a series of injections over a four-day period, immediately prior to the transplant procedure taking place, in order to generate additional blood stem cells. Having the injections was so straightforward, a nurse came to the house, it was entirely painless and again they could not have been more reassuring.

Yes, there were some side effects – back ache was the most noticeable and some flu like symptoms but I had been fully briefed that this would be a likely side effect. A two-day hotel stay was arranged for me within close proximity of the clinic and I went in to donate for the transplant.

Obviously I was very nervous but the hospital staff gave me more reassurance and they kept telling me what a wonderful thing I was doing.

Incredibly, the process went even better than expected and they were able to collect an extra 27%+ more blood stem cells from just the one procedure for the transplant. I could now go home, not needing to stay a second night.

After the donation

Over the following two days I was incredibly tired and suffered further flu like symptoms but I was assured this was a normal reaction as my immune system replenished itself.

As I write this, it is just over a week after my blood stem cell donation and I am feeling fine. I had so much support from my family, friends, colleagues, football team, DKMS and the Anthony Nolan Trust and I will never forget what I was able to do on my 25th birthday.

Having gone through the donation procedure, now the feeling is incredible! I feel proud of myself, I have conquered many of my fears and I so hope that I was able to help, and if I was, I hope to hear in the next nine months to a year a little bit more about who shares my blood profile. It only takes one person to make a difference but everybody can try.”

Patrick Cannon donating his blood stem cells
Patrick donating his blood stem cells

A huge thank you to Patrick for giving a second chance of life to someone with a blood cancer and to his football club and the Southgate family for helping register more potential lifesavers and raise vital funds towards our work. What a gift to give and on your birthday, Patrick. We hope it made your day even more special!

How you can help

Are you feeling inspired? If you’d like to register, check your eligibility and sign up as a potential blood stem cell donor today. Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general good health can go on standby as a potential lifesaver.

If you’re not eligible or you’re already registered, why not check the other ways to get involved in the fight against blood cancer or help us cover donor registration costs?