2023 is proving an exciting year for blood stem cell donor Ethan.
Ethan recently donated his blood stem cells as a donor on the DKMS registry. Now, he is looking forward to joining the police graduate scheme in July.
In his spare time, Ethan enjoys hiking with friends: they have visited the Lake District every year since the last lockdown of COVID ended. He also loves reading, listening to music and playing pool and board games with friends and family.
We asked Ethan to tell us about his donation experience.
Donating my blood stem cells was certainly a good way to start the year! With the kind words from the medical staff, the DKMS post-op team and friends and family, I felt a wave of gratitude for being able to be part of helping someone.
I first became aware of DKMS during a Fresher’s Fair whilst I was studying at Coventry University. One of my classmates was actually helping out with a DKMS stall promoting the donation process. He and the team were very helpful in providing insight into the process and possibility of becoming a donor for someone. So I was swabbed and ‘signed up’ at the stand.
I signed up because it felt like the natural thing to do. I was already a registered and regular blood donor; this felt like a natural ‘next step’ in donating to help someone out there. Moreover, given the nature of DKMS’ reach, it could mean my donation could aid someone abroad that I might not have had any contact with otherwise.
Previous to joining the register I had been aware of blood donation and how the different parts of my blood, for example, platelets, could help someone else. However, I was not aware that blood cancer could be treated by a blood stem cell transplant.
The only awareness I had of blood cancer was at my secondary school where one of my year was off sick for a while. No one knew why. We later had a special assembly informing us that they had leukaemia, but were now recovering.
It took two years on the register before I was called around the summer of 2018 to tell me I was a match for a patient. However, I was later informed that that particular patient’s team chose another match instead. I was called again in 2022 - once more I was a match!
To be matched a second time, given the chance of being matched at all, was a wonderful, exciting feeling. I was about to be given the chance to become part of someone’s treatment.
I was first contacted towards the end of summer 2022, but because the patient was having another treatment during this period, I did not formally have the medical assessment until November.
I had just left my role in a cancer services team when DKMS contacted me to organise the medical assessment. I decided to remain unemployed for the time until I had donated so I could be available for any additional appointments or blood tests that would be required.
My donation was originally planned for December 2022, however, due to the patient needing more treatment, my procedure was pushed back to January.
There are two processes by which I could have donated: peripheral blood stem cell donation, which is very similar to donating blood, and bone marrow donation. The patient’s medical team decided that bone marrow donation, which is done under anaesthetic, was the best method for the patient.
Ahead of my donation, I was only slightly nervous. I had full faith in the medical team following the medical assessment and felt reassured by the staff whilst I was at the clinic the day before, as well as on the morning of my procedure.
As the process of extracting my stem cells was done whilst I was ‘out cold’, there wasn’t much discomfort. Even when I was taken back to my room to recover, it only took a few hours before I felt confident to get up from bed and start moving around.
Both my family and friends were extremely supportive of my becoming a donor, commending my selflessness in helping someone I didn’t even know, who needed help.
I would encourage others to join me in becoming donors. Any doubts or concerns will be completely washed away when you’re contacted by the DKMS staff regarding being a match. The feeling of being uniquely able to help with someone’s treatment is very special.
The DKMS team are immensely supportive and helpful, arranging everything so that the road to the donation itself is as smooth as possible.
If I ever had the opportunity to meet the patient I donated to, I would simply ask how they were feeling post-treatment. To go through the stages of being diagnosed, and then having to wait patiently for a stem cell match must be so daunting. I just hope that their days of being uncertain about the future are over, and they can now be optimistic and happy.
I would happily describe my experience of the entire process, and how supportive DKMS were in arranging appointments. Moreover, the initial registering process is so simple: all that is needed is a swab of the inside of your cheek.
Please join the register. You can help to increase the pool of possible matches so that patients don’t have to feel uneasy about being matched. Although the initial confirmation of being a match may be daunting or exciting, the feeling of walking into the clinic ahead of the donation is indescribable. The thought of helping anyone with such an illness - all it takes is a little of your time to make a massive difference!
If I had to sum my whole experience up in just three words I would say - grateful, fulfilling, easy. I would do it all again in a heartbeat!