"Here's to life, love, sharing & caring” - Stuart's blood stem cell donation story

13 July 2017

“At the end of the summer 2016, my wife and I saw a campaign on Facebook of a little girl local to us, who was in search of a stem cell donor. The story of this little girl touched our hearts, and we instantly went online to DKMS to sign up for a swab kit.

Blood stem cell donor, Stuart, donating via peripheral blood stem cell donation

Within days this kit was sent via post. It was extremely simple to do. Two large swabs for the inside of each cheek, to gather samples to be sent away to the donor register. Not so long after this, I received a letter to confirm my placement on the register along with a DKMS donor card and small key ring fob, which is proudly attached to my car keys.

The process so far was very easy and to be honest it was at the back of my mind until the start of 2017. This is when I received a call. A call to potentially change someone's life. A call to say that I was a possible match for someone in need of a blood stem cell donation.

I was asked to visit my doctors to have some bloods taken, to further check if I was a suitable matching donor. This was done at a time to suit me. My employer has also been very supportive, allowing me time off should I need it. A couple of weeks after these bloods were taken, I received another phone call from Leo at DKMS to ask if I could attend a health check in London.

I flew one morning from Edinburgh, with travel pre-arranged for me by DKMS. The FULL health check covered a lot! From X-rays, more bloods, and an ECG. The health check took around 2 hours and I flew back the same day.

Not so long after my visit to the hospital, Leo called again to let me know that I passed my health test with flying colours. I was ready to go! I was anxious to donate as quickly as possible and Leo confirmed the dates of my donation. It couldn't come soon enough! I wondered if the recipient has been told at this point that a match had been found and how they were feeling. I have a family of my own, and can only imagine the heartache of searching for a treatment or a cure for such an illness.

I would donate by peripheral blood stem cell donation. Basically, my blood would be taken from one arm, the stem cells would be filtered out by a machine and then my blood (minus the stems cell) would re-enter in my other arm. It was by no means a painful process.

Blood stem cell donor, Stuart, holding his blood stem cells

In the 3 days prior to my trip to the hospital to donate, I was given an injection in my arm each day by a nurse who came out to either my work or home address to administer them. The injections were to build up my supply of stem cells in the lead up to the donations. The side effects were virtually non existent; slight aches and pains is all I felt. Similar to a work out in gym, or in my case, a game of rugby.

The day before donation I was flown by DKMS to the hospital where I would donate, for my fourth injection. I was booked into a hotel within walking distance to the hospital, which was very handy and kept my steps up on my Fitbit!

The following morning, I was up and ready to donate. I wasn't nervous at all. I arrived at the hospital and was hooked up to the machine in no time. The whole process from start to finish was around 7 hours and pain free (except when the sticky plaster from around the needle was taken off my arm - ouch!). The staff and the Transplant Coordinator were very friendly and attentive during the day and the lunch provided was not too bad either!

They explained that my stems cells could be with my recipient as soon as the end of the day! To think that they could possibly be on the road to recovery by the end of the day, really was impossible to imagine. Their immune system would have already have been cleared of their own stem cells in preparation to receive mine. They would be living with MY stems cells... MY immune system....

Blood stem cell donor, Stuart, holding his blood stem cells

My own stem cells should replenish themselves in a short period of time. My stems cells, that are hopefully now with new recipient, would have started to work within a couple of weeks from receiving the stem cell transplant. I wish my recipient all the luck in the world on their road to recovery. There's still a long way to go for them I'm sure, but hopefully, in time, we could be in contact.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

Here's to life, love, sharing & caring.

Stuart Ross
Proud Donor of Stem Cells

Thank you to Stuart for sharing his touching donor story with us.

If you find it as inspiring as we do and wish to join the stem cell registry, check out your eligibility and register as a potential blood stem cell donor today. Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general good health can go on standby to save a life.

If you are not eligible or are already registered, why not check the other ways to get involved in the fight against blood cancer?