Donor and father of two Ashley calls for more people to join the DKMS stem cell register
"If it was one of my kids who needed a stem cell transplant, I know I’d be running begging and screaming from door to door for someone to help. So, when I got an email telling me I might be a match for someone, the decision to donate was a no-brainer.”
Ashley Walker, 35, from Connah’s Quay near Chester is a doting dad of two young sons who recently did something amazing. He offered a total stranger suffering with blood cancer a second chance at life by selflessly donating some of his stem cells.
“I can’t even remember how I first heard about DKMS and the need for people to register as potential stem cell donors. I think it was on social media,” says Ashley, who works as a cold end operator for Knauf Insulation at their Queensferry site. “But it’s a really easy process, you just go onto their website and they’ll send you a mouth swab kit to complete and send back to them.”
DKMS holds the country’s largest register of stem cell donors, but there’s an urgent need for more people to sign up as every 20 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with blood cancer.
“I didn’t really think I’d ever get called up to donate,” continues Ashley. “But then, out of the blue at the end of August, I got a call from DKMS to say I could be a potential stem cell match for someone with blood cancer.”
A blood test and medical checks followed, to confirm that Ashley was a match. He also underwent four days of special G-CSF (granulocyte colony-stimulating factor) injections to prepare his body to donate. Last month, DKMS arranged for him to go to a clinic in Sheffield to donate, via a simple outpatient process that is similar to giving blood.
“It’s not much of your time to donate. A few hours in hospital, then some painkillers, but it could mean the rest of their life for the person you’re donating to. It’s huge to them!”
Strict regulations protect the anonymity of donors and recipients immediately following a donation. This means Ashley currently knows almost nothing about the patient he donated to, only that she lives in the United States. “I just hope the transplant worked, and that she’s recovering well,” he says.
Golf-mad Ashley has already got some of his golfing companions to also send off for DKMS swab kits. Now, he’s joined forces with DKMS to encourage other people to join the register too. “It could mean the world to someone with blood cancer – and you never know, that might one day be someone you love!”