22 February 2018
As part of our fifth year anniversary celebrations we speak to our longest serving staff member Joe.
Joe works within our donor recruitment team and has played a key role in raising awareness of blood cancer and registering potential blood stem cell donors to the UK Aligned Stem Cell Registry.
We ask Joe five questions and get the lowdown:
1. What does it means to be a donor recruiter?
A donor recruiter is someone who works very closely with people looking for their potential lifesaver and their family to help find a match for them and others in need of a matching donor.
We help host donor recruitment drives for the general public and other groups. For example we work closely with a number of different corporate organisations who host events in order for their staff members to register. Find out more about our corporate partners and how your company can get involved.
You need to be passionate about the cause and have really good people skills – I’ve been doing this job for five years and am proud to have played an important role in registering nearly 350,000 donors over five years.
2. How do you register people to become a potential lifesaver?
Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general good health can register to become a potential lifesaver.
People can then take the first step in becoming a blood stem cell donor at one of our registration events. When you register as a potential blood stem cell donor, you fill in a form and do some cheek swabs, which is then analysed at our lab to establish your tissue type. If your tissue type matches that of someone in need, we will be in contact as soon as possible.
3. What are people’s most misconceptions?
When registering a lot of people think it’s the same as signing up to give blood.
Donating blood stem cells through a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection is similar to giving blood in 90% of cases. A needle is placed into one arm and your blood is circulated through an apheresis machine, which acts as a filter to remove the blood stem cells and your blood is returned to your body through your other arm.
The other 10% of cases are done through a bone marrow collection. People often think this is extracted from the spine, whereas in fact it’s taken from the pelvic bone.
Finding a suitable donor for a patient in need of a blood stem cell transplant is decided on the basis of their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type (tissue type), rather than on their blood type.
4. What’s your most memorable moment during the five year period?
One of our biggest ever patient campaigns was for an inspiring young boy called Finn, from Liverpool. We carried out numerous registration events in the Liverpool area and registered thousands of potential lifesavers.
Finn was fortunate to find his matching donor and went on to have his transplant on 11 June, which is also my birthday. For the rest of our lives we will share the same birthday, which I feel very fortunate about!
Finn is doing ever so well now and I’m sure I will be friends with his family for life.
5. What would you say to those that aren’t already registered?
For anyone who is eligible that hasn’t registered I would urge you all to do so. You could potentially be someone’s lifesaver and help give them a second chance at life.
One thing I’ve learned from my time at DKMS is that many of our donors find the experience incredibly rewarding and actually feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to save a life. That could be you.
If you are unable to register there are many other ways that you can support us.
If you interested in holding a donor registration event please contact our donor recruitment team.