Earlier this year we were thrilled to hear that one of our donor sign ups in 2017, Stuart Freeman, had been matched with a patient in need. In July this year we were pleased to accompany Stuart on his visit to the London Clinic where he harvested his stem cells for the first time and was able to donate these cells to give his recipient a second chance at life.
We interviewed Stuart after his donation to give us some insight into his experience of being a stem cell donor and potential life saver.
How and why did you originally register as a potential blood stem cell/bone marrow donor?
I was with my brother at the Lilleshall 10k running event last year where Race Against Blood Cancer were holding a donor drive. I knew of someone who had blood cancer but I knew nothing about the stem cell or bone marrow donors or how they are used to help blood cancer patients. However, when I was shown how easy the sign up process was I went ahead and registered.
How did you find out you were a match for someone and how did you feel?
DKMS called to tell me I was a match for a patient in need – I obviously wanted to do it but like most people I did feel a little nervous as I hadn’t really researched the actual donation process beforehand, and didn’t know if there may be any long term side effects. Once I spent a bit of time researching the process I felt more at ease. Knowing that I may have a few short term side effects didn’t bother me as I knew I could be saving a life.
Did you get to choose the method of donation?
Yes I did – Initially they asked for bone marrow, which I was happy to donate but after reviewing the recipient’s needs the patient team were more than happy to take my stem cells instead.
How did DKMS prepare you for the donation (appointments/medical injections etc?)
I had a medical a few weeks before which I attended at the London Clinic and then 4 lots of 4 injections, four days before the actual donation. The medical team also came out to me to do the injections – I was originally meant to be paintballing and so they were even prepared to come out to the venue, but it got cancelled so they came to me at home whilst I was watching the England World Cup game instead!
Where did you go to harvest your cells and how long did the process take?
I went to the London Clinic for my procedure – it took around 3hrs 50 minutes to collect the stem cells and I had to wait for around 30 minutes afterwards for them to check I had donated enough cells. They needed 5 million but managed to collect 23 million in that short time. I was told they would use what they needed and freeze the rest for anyone else who may need them.
Is it painful and did you experience any side effects?
I didn’t experience any pain as such; I just had the usual side effects that I’d prepared myself for, so I was slightly achy in the lower back and feeling a little groggy after the injections. The medical team told me I would feel better after the stem cell collection and they were right. The following day I was feeling 100% again!
Did you incur any costs?
DKMS covered my travel and hotel stay as I lived quite far from the clinic. I was also given the opportunity to use an optional food and drink voucher but I used my own money.
How did you feel mentally and physically after the donation procedure was over?
I actually felt really good physically almost straight away; any side effects you have are not serious and are only short term. I felt so positive that I had the opportunity to save a life and be able to raise awareness of being a donor and what the process involves – the worst part was being on camera!
How do you think we can encourage other people like you to register?
It’s really important to me to get across how easy it is to register and to donate. Just a few hours of my time could have potentially saved a life and that makes me feel great. For me it’s all about the awareness, if I can help inform people that life saving like this exists and show how simple the process is, then I know people would register in a heartbeat!
We would like to say a massive thank you to Stuart – the impact that he is going to have on his recipient life can’t be put into words. We would also like to thank you to DKMS, the medical team and the amazing staff on the day at The London Clinic.