12 March 2018
Elinor Bauchmuller, a doctor from Sheffield, registered to become a potential blood stem cell donor in 2014 and donated some of her blood stem cells three years later.
Elinor attended an event at the University of Sheffield to share her experience and encourage others to register and go on standby to help save the life of someone in need.
“I first heard of DKMS when I was looking into how to sign up to the bone marrow registry and consulting the internet! It was something I’d heard about and had meant to register for years but hadn’t got around to doing it.
I’m a doctor so I had some understanding of what blood stem cells are used for and that an international registry exists to try to match people who need a transplant with a donor.
My husband (who is also a doctor) had worked in haematology early on and had looked after the patients receiving stem cell transplants. He had first-hand experience of the awful conditions his patients were fighting and of the real difference that a stem cell transplant could make.
He had shared many stories with me - both the good and the sad - and we both felt strongly that we would want to make ourselves available to donate stem cells just in case one day we could potentially help someone.
He has been signed up to the registry for years and is still on standby. I was a bit slower registering and had probably been on the registry for around only about five years when I got the call.
The important call
When I got the call from DKMS I was told I was a potential match for someone and asked if I would be prepared to go ahead with donating stem cells, should I be found to be a good match. I felt quite excited and nervous at the same time.
We had a lot going on in our life and it felt like terrible timing but I figured - there’s never a good time to get leukaemia or some other similar blood cancer or disorder.
The staff at DKMS were really good at explaining what the process would be and answering all my questions so that I felt well informed about what it would involved and were very supportive.
My gut instinct was that I would of course be prepared to donate but, as a mother to two young children, I felt I should quickly discuss it with my husband first because it may affect the whole family and I also wanted to discuss with my workplace to make sure they would support my decision to donate, in case it meant I had to take a few days off work.
By the time I was told that I was a good match and that the patient’s team had chosen me to donate, I had had plenty of time to get used to the idea. I was excited about the idea and felt privileged in a way to be able to offer this to someone who desperately needed it. I did feel slightly apprehensive too, especially as the donation date drew nearer, but really only because I have kids and a responsibility to my family!
What did the donation involve?
I was asked to donate stem cells via peripheral stem cell collection. I have fairly juicy veins in my arms so fortunately the nurses were able to use the veins in my arms - a cannula in one arm and the donation needle in the other. One arm has to be kept still throughout, the other can be moved but once the donation has started, there’s no getting off the bed for four hours - even for a pee!
I had to go back for a second day of donation because they hadn’t managed to collect enough cells the first time around. That’s apparently not uncommon, especially for women, that a second day is needed. The blood flow from me to the machine wasn’t quite as good on the second day which made the machine alarm a lot, the donation slower and I felt slightly more uncomfortable (because of holding my position rather than anything else).
The staff in the donation centre were lovely; very friendly and attentive and obviously knowledgeable and highly competent.
After the donation
I felt relieved and elated. I was still tired from the effects of the GCSF but the side effects of that quickly disappeared once I stopped having to have the injections and I felt back to normal within two days afterwards.
I was pleased to have done it and wondered about the next stage in the journey of my blood stem cells, winging their way across the Atlantic to their recipient. I hope they have helped. I have some awareness of the problems the recipients can face after a donation as well as the potential for saving their lives with it. I’m hoping the transplant has been a success.
I'm just glad to have been able to do it. It’s good to know that when someone needed me, my details were there on the registry so they could find me, and I could offer something to help.
As a medical person, I may have some small insight (though only a little) into the suffering that people endure when they are fighting illnesses like leukaemia, lymphoma, aplastic anaemia… but I can only begin to imagine how desperate the patient and their family, must feel and how awful their journey must have been up to that point. I so hope that I have helped in some way to alleviate that suffering.
I would certainly be prepared to donate again if I was needed. The process was relatively straightforward and was really well supported by DKMS.
The minor discomfort is far outweighed by the hope that donating the blood stem cells could have helped someone’s fight against blood cancer.”
How you can help
If this has inspired you and you would like to register then please check your eligibility and sign up as a potential blood stem cell donor today. Anyone between the ages of 17-55 and in good general health can go on standby to potentially save a life.