After joining the bone marrow register through Anthony Nolan Trust ten years ago, Lee Hatton from Birmingham donated his stem cells in November 2012. Bpositive caught up with him and asked him to share his experience on donating his stem cells, to which he was only too happy to oblige.
What made you join the Anthony Nolan register?
It was about ten years ago, the mobile blood donor van was in Birmingham at the time and I decided to donate blood of a lunch time. Whilst doing so, there was a poster on the wall for the Anthony Nolan Trust, I asked the nurse about it and she explained what they did. I called them up that day and they sent me out an information pack.
What did you have to do to join the register?
Ten years back, the process for joining was very different. I was sent a test tube to take to the local hospital and give a blood sample, I then posted this back to Anthony Nolan. The joining process nowadays is much simpler, you can apply for an application pack online and it is simply a saliva swab and application form.
How did you get told that you were a match?
I received a letter in the post informing me that I had been shortlisted as a potential match and that a further blood sample was required, this was done at the local hospital and posted back to them. A few weeks later I received another letter and a phone call to let me know I was the closest match and to ask if I would be available in 3 weeks time for the donation process.
How did you feel when told you were a match?
I felt incredibly lucky to be given the chance to help somebody. Having had a personal experience with leukaemia (my wife being diagnosed with a subtype of AML in 2008), I know full well the pain and difficulties of trying to achieve and maintain remission. To know that you are somebody’s best change for recovery is quite a humbling experience.
What was the process of donation entail?
The process was all handled by the Anthony Nolan Trust smoothly and efficiently, train tickets and hotel details all arriving in the post in plenty of time. All I had to do was turn up ! Firstly a date was arranged for a thorough medical examination to be undertaken, this is to make sure you are fit to donate and will not suffer any ill effects, this is followed by a session with a councillor to explain the process and any minor risks as the last thing they want is to start the recipients preparation treatment and have you pull out before donating. For 5 days before the donation I was visited each day at work and given an injection to stimulate stem cell growth. These are given in the arm and are a painless and quick process. The collection then takes place over a 4-5 hour period, where you have a cannula inserted into each arm, one to take the blood and another to return it to you once the stem cells have been separated. You are free to eat, drink and watch TV during the process. The medical examination and the donation all take place at a private London clinic.
Was it painful to donate?
Other than general sharp scratch you feel from having a needle, the only other side effect was a minor back ache caused by the stem cell stimulant injections. This disappears after a few days.
Would you donate again?
Without a doubt yes. Having donated once, I am now ‘on reserve’ for the same recipient for the next 2 years, should they need another transplant. After this, I go back on the general list. I would do it every year if I could !
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of donating?
Just do it. There really is no downside. 2 nights in a fancy London hotel and all your expenses paid for, you even have time to go watch a show after the donation if you wanted !
I cant stress enough how Anthony Nolan made the whole process so simple and easy. I honestly think the donor list should be an ‘opt out’ scheme whereby everyone is on the list unless you choose otherwise. When you think, you can potentially be somebody best chance of survival, and for what ….. 5 hours of sitting on a bed donating. There must be so many people out there who could be matched with those requiring donors but they just aren't aware of it.
Lee was found as a match through the Anthony Nolan Trust. If you wish to join the register then find out more by clicking here.