29 October 2019
Tristan Vandenbosch, 27, from Wakefield signed up to receive his DKMS swab kit in 2015. Two years later, he received the call to say he had been matched with a US blood cancer patient. Here, Tristan tells us about his donor journey and how he would do it all over again to help someone.
“I first found out about DKMS through army friend of mine. At the time, DKMS were working with the army to encourage its personnel to become donors. My friend told me about the charity and I thought that I would take a look. It seemed such a worthwhile thing to do so I ordered the swab kit.
“A family member of mine actually passed away following a blood cancer diagnosis. So it was a case of trying to help someone else.
The call for me to donate actually came
“I swabbed my cheeks and sent it back to be registered. After about 2 years later, in March 2017, I got a call from DKMS to say that I was a potential match with a US patient. I just remember being a little shocked but I was very happy to go along with what the doctors wanted me to do. I needed to do another DNA test to check that I was a match and I was in good health. I got the call on Monday and by Thursday, I was at the GPs getting some blood tests done.
“Less than a week later, I was told that I was a match and I was asked if I wanted to go ahead with the donation process. They said to me that my blood stem cells were of a good enough quality so didn’t have to do the bone marrow procedure which I was quite relieved about!”
“Ahead of the blood test, I started to get a little nervous about it all but thought if someone needed was my stem cells, they must be in dire need and I was left in no doubt that I had to donate.
Going to the London Clinic
“I freely admit that on the train down to London, I was apprehensive about what was going to happen but the medical staff at the hospital were so reassuring. I remember that all the donors on that day were in one large room, I got talking to a mother who was donating on behalf of her daughter. That experience really brought it home to me and what I was there to do. We were all there together united in a common purpose: to help other people with blood cancer.
“My blood stem cells were taken through the PBSC method, I was attached to a machine which drew the blood out of one arm, filtered and collected the stem cells, and returned the rest of my blood back into my other arm. The whole process took about around 4 hours, my arm was a little sore afterwards but I was determined to make the most of my time in London and went sightseeing afterwards!
“I would give an unreserved ‘yes’ to donating again. I found the whole process very satisfying. And I feel proud, happy and helpful that I donated and was able to give someone a second chance of life, or at least extra time with their family and loved ones. I had some slight discomfort after the process but it was nothing compared to the person who I was doing it for.
Visiting the US
“I often think about how that person who received my blood stem cells are doing and wonder about their life. I would like to meet that person someday just to find out how it turned out for them. Unfortunately, the family are in the United States so I couldn’t meet up for coffee or anything like that, but if I plan a trip to the US in the future, I would try to visit them.
“I think everybody who can be on the registry should be so people with blood cancer don’t have to go through these frantic searches to find their match. Also, you never know if you or a loved one will be in the same situation someday.
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 of 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?