22 November 2018
After seeing a news report about a little boy, called Tommy, who was searching for his lifesaver, in 2016, Alex felt compelled to help.
He registered as a potential blood stem cell donor with DKMS and within two years he had donated his blood stem cells to someone in need of a lifesaving transplant, like Tommy.
Alex shared his inspirational story with over 600 guests at the Big Love Gala to inspire them to take that first steps in becoming a potential lifesaver in waiting.
Alex sharing his story at DKMS Big Love Gala
Registering for Tommy
“The piece got my attention as it highlighted there was a lack of black, Asian and mixed race people on the registry. Being mixed race myself (I am German and Trinidadian from my mother’s side and Jamaican and Irish on my father’s side), I felt compelled to doing anything I could to help.
The news piece linked to the Tommy’s campaign that led to DKMS and I registered for my home swab kit online. It was very simple to register – I received my kit, did the cheeks swabs and sent them back. There is nothing too intimidating or scary about it and I didn’t really think about it again.
Receiving that important call
I received the news in late 2017 that I was a potential match. I was really happy to know that the match process had found me a potential somebody.
You don’t sign on to something like this lightly – you register with the intend and self promise that you are going to donate. It was so important to me to receive that call to say I was a match.
The lead up
After lots of initial tests it was confirmed that I was going to be donating my blood stem cells in March 2018.
Leading up to it I wasn’t nervous as such - it was more of an adrenaline feeling. I can imagine it’s very similar to how adrenaline junkies feel planning a big stunt.
I was confirmed to donate via the peripheral blood stem cell method rather than the bone marrow donation. I know this method was similar to donating blood – so leading up to donation day I felt completely fine.
Because I was donating via this method, I needed GCSF injections in the run up to the donation, to bring my stem cells into my blood stream. They caused me to have a few aches and pains - they say you are going to experience flu like symptoms and I think I’d liken it to ‘man flu’!
On the day there were others who were also donating their blood stem cells. I was the only one that had a slightly different experience with the peripheral method. It wasn’t taking the blood and putting it back in as they needed it to.
After some discussions and consultation, we decided to use another method via my neck.
I remember at the time thinking I wasn’t concerned about me but more the fact that, if it didn’t work at all, then this person wouldn’t get their second chance. It didn’t have anything to do with me and how I was feeling - I need this to work and I would have done anything to get it done.
I generally preferred the donation through the neck, as it was much more comfortable for me. I was able to use both my arms, I was able to talk to people.
Fortunately, they collected enough blood stem cells first time around, so I didn’t need to go back the next day.
That bag of stem cells
When I saw the bag itself I generally was in disbelief, thinking ‘is that it?’ It was such a small amount considering how large I am. I felt fine – I didn’t have any nausea or anything so I kept offering for them to take more if they needed! I didn’t want to leave the building without knowing they had everything they needed and the blood stem cells were on their way.
Alex at the London Clinic
After the donation
The moment the donation finished, I felt perfect – I felt healthier. It was a lovely feeling, like having a weight lifted off of you.
I found out that my stem cells were going to a male in France who was in his 60s. It was a bit like finding the final piece of the jigsaw. I never would have imagined that my donation would be going to someone who was older. I never thought you would be giving someone a second chance at life, so much later on in life.
I had to re-adjust my mind set as I originally signed up because of young Tommy – so I automatically thought I would donate to someone younger. However, blood cancer can affect anyone – anywhere.
Calling on others lifesavers
Most people have the fear of the unknown and a self-inflicted worry. You’re so well looked after throughout the entire process, from start to finish. The clinic is an amazing - a gorgeous lovely place - and the staff looked after and cared for me so well.
I don’t think anyone in the world would disagree that a moment of discomfort for them, is absolutely worth it to give someone else a second chance at life..
We are moving forward to a generation where there will be more mixed race children – so this would be the perfect time for more mixed race, black and Asian people to sign up.
I came out of it completely fine and unscathed – I didn’t have any reoccurring problems afterwards and I would 100% donate again.”
How you can help
If you’d like to register as a potential blood stem cell donor you can check your eligibility and sign up today. Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general good health can go on standby as a potential lifesaver.
If you're not eligible of 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?