28 February 2017
Shortly before Christmas last year, Claire gave someone the ultimate gift – a second chance of life. Here, she tells her story of how it felt to donate blood stem cells:
“I first heard about DKMS in July last year whilst I was in Haiti and saw a friend post a link to the sign-up part of the DKMS website. I read it and via extremely dodgy internet connection signed up there and then. When I came home to the swab kit a few weeks later, I sent it off and didn’t really think anything more of it. It was only six weeks later that I got told I was potentially a match.
From then, the process went very quickly, but I didn’t actually believe I’d be the closest match at any point until a couple of months later when all the tests came back and it was decided that I was. I was genuinely elated – I felt so privileged to be able to do something like this for someone else. I’m currently training to be a doctor and was able to sit in on a couple of blood cancer clinics with people who had received – and were waiting for – bone marrow/stem cell transplants. That was especially poignant for me – I felt very lucky to be able to meet the people who would benefit so much from the small thing I would be doing. It also made me determined to get as many people as possible to sign up.
The donation process itself was really simple – DKMS make the whole thing so easy and tailor it around your day to day life. There was no expense for me and I was able to be accompanied by a friend throughout the process. In addition to this, as it was better for the patient I was matched with, I was going to do peripheral blood stem cell donation as opposed to bone marrow. Therefore I needed to have G-CSF injections for four days prior to the donation to encourage the stem cells out of my bone marrow and into my blood stream. DKMS arranged for them to be done wherever was convenient for me – two of them were done in the hospital I’m training at in Manchester (the nurse who gave me the first one even came with me to a teaching session afterwards to check I was ok!), one was done at home, and the final one in London. I did feel a bit unwell and sore, but nothing compared to what the person receiving my donation would be feeling like, and nothing that would stop me donating again.
The actual stem cell donation was totally fine, as you can see in the photo! The people looking after me were so kind and thoughtful, the food was great, and the donation itself actually went very quickly for me. I had to come back for a second day of donation to collect more but that wasn’t a problem.
After the donation, medically I felt fine (just a bit tired), but I did immediately feel quite emotional at the thought of what the person receiving my stem cells would be going through. I find myself thinking about how she might be doing daily – hopefully one day we’ll be able to meet! I’m so glad I was able to donate. The process really was so simple, and I’ve managed to get lots of my friends to sign up too! As I said previously, it’s a privilege to have been able to do this for someone else, and I also hope that this will lead to me being a better doctor in the future.”
Claire – lifesaving blood stem cell donor.
If you would like to join Claire on the UK Stem Cell Registry, you can sign-up to become a potential blood stem cell donor using the 'register now' button