“If you can write your name and brush your teeth – you can register as a donor.”

30 January 2019

After hearing about a child’s search for their potential lifesaver Scott took the first step and registered as a blood stem cell donor.

Little did he know that five years on he would be donating his bone marrow to someone half way across the world.

Thank you Scott for helping to give someone a second chance at life and for going the extra mile to raise awareness and vital funds by taking part in a half marathon and encouraging his work place to host a donor registration drive.

A year on from donating Scott shares his donation journey to encourage others to register…

“It couldn't be simpler to register as a potential blood stem cell donor – I did so in 2012. If you can write your name and brush your teeth you're capable of doing everything that is required to register.

One of my wife’s colleagues was volunteering at a DKMS registration event, we went along and my wife and I swabbed together.

I was already pretty aware of blood cancer as my cousin had been diagnosed with leukaemia as a child. Claire was really sick throughout her life - I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t.

Thankfully, her brother Stewart was identified as a match for her. He ended up donating some of his bone marrow when he was just a baby. Sadly, Claire died of a brain tumour in the end and her loss affected the whole family.

Receiving that all important call

Towards the end of 2017 it was a fairly busy day in the office and I kept missing calls from the same number.

I eventually had a chance to listen to a voicemail and check my emails and realised that DKMS had been trying to reach me - it was obviously fairly urgent by the number of missed calls!

I called back and they explained that I had been identified as a potential match for someone – I couldn’t quite believe it.

It’s hard to describe how you feel when you’re being told that someone else needs this donation and you’re the best possible match. I don’t know how anyone can say no to that? To receive this news it made me feel really happy knowing I could help them.

Shortly afterwards I went to my doctors to get my blood taken and the samples were flown to Germany for further testing to ensure that I was definitely a match for this person… and I was!

The next step was to take part in a medical screening and I travelled to a clinic. I was delayed due to travel problems and was freaking out thinking I wouldn’t make the appointment. I literally ran all the way to ensure that I didn’t miss it - as I knew just how important it was.

Ahead of the donation

I was a little bit wary at first as my recipient needed to receive a bone marrow rather than a peripheral blood stem cell collection. The last time I had received a general anaesthetic was when I was a child and I remember waking up in a terrible state afterwards. I was a bit worried and nervous about that but it was all fine in the end.

I asked if we could do the peripheral blood stem cell collection instead and DKMS went back to double check with the patient’s medical team. However, we were told that the best method would be a bone marrow collection.

Sending my bone marrow across the pond

Whilst you're blissfully unaware due to general anaesthetic, the marrow is extracted from the top of each hip with a special needle leaving you with a couple of pin prick holes/scars on your lower back.

The rest of the day is spent with a Netflix marathon and some of the nicest medical staff you'll ever meet popping by to check on you and you're discharged the following morning.

I received compliments about how great my bone marrow was, as it was really dense and good quality (apparently) and therefore they didn’t need to take as much.

I learnt a little about who my donation was going to - they were a 44-year-old male from the States. The last update I received was saying that they were alive and that the transplant was deemed successful in that the stem cells have began reproducing new healthy blood cells inside the recipient's body - I really hope they are continuing to do well.

To be honest though it didn’t matter who the recipient was as you know that this human being needs your help. Getting the news that it been successful and that they are doing well was definitely a good news day. I am just glad that I could help in some way.

After I got that news I thought there was nothing more that I needed to know, but I do find myself wondering about them on occasions. If I had the opportunity to ask one question it would be ‘what things have you been most glad to have the opportunity to do, since the transplant, that you thought wouldn't have been possible before?’

After the donation

The procedure was done on a Monday and I was back home the following day. I took a couple of days off work and I was back in the office a week afterwards – my work were really supportive throughout the whole process.

Following the donation my iron levels dropped and I became anaemic, so walking up the stairs at the office totally tired me out.

It did take a while for me to get my energy back and feel less tired but it was just because I had been so used to being active. I took some iron supplements to help me get back on track.

I love running and the day before the donation I did a 10k run. At work we were doing a marathon relay. I did a seven mile leg and it was tough doing training for that.

I then went on to run the Belfast City Half Marathon (in Sept 2018) as after my personal experience I could see how much work goes into setting up the donation. I wanted to raise awareness of the importance of blood stem cell donations and raise funds to help register more donors.

After thoughts

I’m extremely proud to have donated, although it’s not something I like talking about because I don’t want any credit for doing it. I don’t think anyone could really say no whenever you know that you would be helping another human being out.

I think it’s quite humbling to be a match and being able to help someone else. The actual process of doing it is really straightforward and my part was very easy – I just had to show up! There was no doubt I was going to do whatever it took and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

It so hard for someone to find a matching donor, so the more people that are on the registry it helps give people a better chance. Particularly, if they are black, Asian and mixed race as the donor pool is smaller, so it’s so important to have more diversified register.

My personal view is that it should be like the organ donation’s opt out system as everyone that is eligible should be a blood stem cell donor but obviously if they really don’t want to be then they can opt out.

Cancer affects so many people and everyone knows someone who has been affected by it. This could really help to make a difference to someone.

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?