Marathon runner Simeon donates blood stem cells

3 April 2017

When marathon runner Simeon first heard about stem cell donation and the fight against blood cancer, he was inspired to register as a potential blood stem cell donor. For two years, he was on standby to save a life. Then, in autumn 2016, he got the call that would lead to him giving someone a second chance of life. Here, Simeon explains why he registered, what the donation process was like for him, and how he felt afterwards:

Marathon runner and blood stem cell donor Simeon

“I first heard about DKMS and stem cell donation through Anthony Nolan. I was set to run the Paris Marathon in 2013, and thought I may as well raise money for a charity whilst doing so. The support I received from their fundraising team was beyond phenomenal, and I also learned much more about the work they do and about stem cell donation. When I got a place in Paris the following year, I contacted Anthony Nolan again to see if I could run for them in that and the London Marathon. They said yes and I got to know them even better.

Despite still not knowing much about the donation process, I knew what an amazing effect it can have on the recipient and their family, so I really wanted to DO something practical. Being over 30, though, I was unable to join their register. I first heard about DKMS when Anthony Nolan included DKMS in a tweet. I looked DKMS up and realised I could register with them. So I did, straight away. That was around October 2014.

About two years later, I was told a was a match for someone in need… I was ecstatic! I'm Jewish, and it was on Jewish new year's day that I got the call. What an amazing way to start the year! Some might say that's fate... Who knows. But when I got a missed call and a text, I called back immediately!

Shortly afterwards, I went for blood tests at my local hospital at a time to suit me and my work diary. They took quite a bit of blood, but I knew what the end result could be, so I wasn't too concerned and it didn't hurt at all. I was told it could take up to three months to hear whether I was a confirmed match and I was kept updated by the DKMS team through that time.

Eventually, after almost three months, I got the call in January to confirm the result. I couldn't believe it and just wanted to do it as soon as possible. After that, I went for further blood tests at the donation centre to check my suitability as a donor. I basically had a full health MOT! I also met a Consultant who talked me through the donation process, what was involved, the pros/cons, risks etc. Nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary.

There were a few complications with liver enzymes through the blood tests, so I had to go back to the Clinic a few times, but DKMS offered to cover all expenses. I was more worried about whether I'd be able to donate, rather than any concerns about my health. After three visits, my suitability and ability to donate was confirmed. I had already been scheduled to donate a couple of weeks later, so I could now go ahead.

The evening before the donation, I checked in at the donation centre before going home to have dinner and help put the kids to bed. I went back into London for 10pm and settled in to my room. Throughout my stay at the donation centre, the staff, nurses and everybody were amazing. Even the food made me want to stay longer!

I was taken down to theatre at about 7.30am the next morning and was given a general anaesthetic. By 9.10am, and 1.2 litres of bone marrow lighter, I was back in my room and messaging my wife to let her know I was ok. By that afternoon I was out of bed and walking round my room, basically pain free. The following morning I was discharged and walked (slowly, but pain-free) to the station and got the train home.

Since then, I have had very little pain, if any. I have had some mild discomfort where they made the injections, but nowhere near as much as you'd have thought. I've rested when needed, but was back at work within three days. I've had a bit less energy than normal, but given what has just happened, I consider that a TINY price to pay.

Donating means I've had the chance to save someone's life. Surely that has to be the most amazing thing a person can do for someone else. I know a little bit about the recipient and, with their permission, I will be making contact to see how they're getting on. Who knows if I'll hear back... but I just hope that the transplant worked.

People keep calling me a hero. I don't know about that, though. The recipient and their family are the real heroes. They are the ones who have had to endure pain, treatment, isolation and worry. I've just had an opportunity to help them. Why would anyone not?

Inspired by Simeon’s story? If you are in good health and are aged between 17 and 55 years, you can register as a potential blood stem cell donor too.

If you are not eligible or have already registered with Anthony Nolan, NHS Blood & Transplant or the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry, why not check the other ways to back the fight against blood cancer?