14 February 2019
A few years ago, instead of giving up wine and chocolate for Lent Lisa took the first step in registering as a blood stem cell donor.
Little did Lisa realise, this change would have a big impact. On Valentine’s Day she donated her blood stem cells to a stranger to help give them a second chance at life.
Thanks to Lisa for being someone’s perfect match - this Valentine’s Day she urges people to share the love and register as a potential lifesaver.
Lisa with her blood stem cells
“My friend shared a story of a local’s girl’s fight against blood cancer and it encouraged people to sign up as a potential blood stem cell donor with DKMS.
The story really struck a chord with me. As it was around the time of lent, instead of giving up chocolate and wine, like I usually do, I decided that I would register with DKMS. I requested a home swab kit online and also made a £40 donation to the charity, to help cover the cost of registering a new donor.
I didn’t know anyone directly affected by blood cancer, but after registering I started to do some research and became fascinated by the science behind collecting the stem cells from the blood.
Receiving that important call
I never expected to actually receive a call because the odds of finding a match are so terribly slim.
Life was pretty busy at the time. I had just returned to work from maternity leave after my second child. Understandably, I was focused on my family and my career, so I’d almost forgotten that I had registered.
Around two years after registering with DKMS they contacted me by phone and informed me I had been identified as a possible match for someone. I couldn’t believe it!
It was emotional to think that I was a potential match and that I had the opportunity to save someone’s life. The minute I found out I was a match, I immediately felt a connection to this stranger I didn’t even know.
Within a week I was off to my local doctor’s surgery to get my blood samples taken and to confirm whether I was an actual match or not.
I later found out that this process is known as confirmatory typing and is used to find the best possible match for the patient. I was informed that I was the best possible match for the patient and the procedure was booked for day before Valentine’s Day.
The donation process
I was told about the two methods of donating blood stem cells. I was a little nervous at first but reassured myself that I had given birth twice, so this should be a walk in the park compared to Braxton Hicks and labour.
Knowing there was someone else at the end who urgently needed my blood stem cells made it remarkably easy agreeing to either method.
In the end, I donated through the peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection and was able to see the apheresis machine in action.
Stem cells are seperated from blood using apheresis machine
A normal blood stem cell transplant usually requires four million blood stem cells to be collected. My patient needed more and I had to give eight million.
All I kept thinking to myself was that the patient must have been really ill to have needed that amount of blood stem cells. This meant I had to go back to the clinic for a second consecutive day, so I ended up donating my blood stem cells on Valentine’s Day.
I hadn’t planned to be in hospital on Valentine’s Day. If anything, I was hoping to be spoilt by my husband on that day. I didn’t mind though, because donating my blood stem cells to a stranger on Valentine’s Day was the perfect act of love.
I don’t know much about the patient other than she’s a 77 year old woman from Denmark. I’d like to get the opportunity to meet her one day just to see how she is doing.. I just hope I did enough for her and that she is now on the road to recovery and enjoying a second chance at life.
The whole process has made me re-evaluate my own life. I am reminded that life is too short to get annoyed by the small things. I value life and all that comes with it so much more now. I feel I’m a lot more patient, caring and definitely more grateful for everything and everyone in my life. I honestly feel I am a better person because of this experience and would encourage anyone that can to become a potential lifesaver too.
No matter what you are feeling just think about what the other person is going through. A few moments of your time in return for a lifetime for someone, is so worth doing! 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 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?