The DKMS Scotland hub was set up by Steven MacMillan (pictured above, with a couple of volunteers) after he saw a patient campaign and realised there was a lack of awareness locally about DKMS’s work.
“DKMS was not a well known organisation in Scotland and I wanted to change that. We have a passion to help find as many potential donors as possible for blood cancer patients across the country. It is such a simple process. You really can save someone's life.”
Fast forward two years and Steven now has a small team of volunteers who all have unique stories about how they came to work with DKMS. One of them, Jamie , shares his story below.
In June 2016, I was a really fit and healthy 38 year old, with a busy, responsible job and a beautiful wife pregnant with twin girls.
I was decorating the girls’ room for when they arrived, and got a really sore back. I was in progressively more pain as the days went by and had been to my GP and A&E a number of times.
One Saturday morning, my wife called an ambulance as the pain in my back was radiating across my chest and I thought I was having a heart attack. When I arrived at A&E, I was rushed into the High Dependency Unit and thankfully, an on-call haematologist recognised my symptoms and suspected I had leukaemia. His suspicion was proved to be correct, and the leukaemia was already quite advanced.
Hearing that I had cancer was a shock to everyone who knew me! I’ve always been as strong as an ox and the least likely person to fall ill.
I was also told that my type of leukaemia (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia) was particularly aggressive and had a chromosomal abnormality that would cause it to continue recurring until it killed me, unless I managed to find a matching stem cell donor from the international registry.
I first became aware of DKMS at that stage, recognising their huge contribution in recruiting new potential donors. The initial search for me resulted in only 3 potential donor matches worldwide, and they would all require further testing to see if any of them were viable.
On the second day of my second round of chemotherapy, I got two amazing presents that will stay with me forever….identical twin baby girls and the news that I had a stem cell donor match!
In December 2016, I entered a specialised hospital unit for five weeks. I received the final preparatory doses of chemo and irradiation, before receiving my life-saving stem cell transplant. Due to the chromosomal abnormality, it really was my only chance to live and see my little girls grow up. At the start, we didn’t even know if I’d live long enough to meet my girls.
My donor was a DKMS volunteer from Germany, who I have never met. This young guy selflessly saved my life. I’ll never be able to thank him enough for what he has given my family and I.
You can help Steven and Jamie on their mission, by joining the register and taking the first step towards saving a life. If you're unable to join the register but would still like to help, please consider contributing below, or get in touch to find out about local volunteering opportunities with DKMS.