I first found out about Strength to Give in my local Blood Donation Centre while attending my usual blood/plasma donation appointment. There was a poster displayed on the wall, and I asked my nurse about the organisation. I wanted to join the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry because I thought it was the easiest thing, I could do to change someone’s life for the better and give them a chance at living their life happier and healthier. I thought that if one of my family members needed a blood stem cell transplant, I would hope someone out there was willing to help them. I signed up as I wanted to be that person for someone else’s family.
When I got that first call saying that I was a potential match to someone, I was so excited! I never actually thought I would get that call. I’ve heard so many people say they have been on the registry for years and never received any calls to donate. When I got my call around 3-4 months after registering, I knew it was the best decision I had made.
After I was first contacted, I had to have some more blood samples to ensure my blood markers were the best fit for the receiving patient. I was then contacted again and confirmed as the primary donor. This was the best news ever! After this, there were calls arranging dates and times for me to provide the donation. My Donor Support Coordinator was very informative and made the whole process seem so easy and faultless. She was there to answer any of my questions and always phoned and checked in on me and how I was feeling leading up to the procedure.
“My Strength to Give Coordinator was very informative and made the whole process seem so easy and faultless.”
During my work-up appointment, I was told that I would provide a peripheral blood stem cell donation (PBSC). A few days before my donation, I was injected daily with Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF). Being a nurse, I was happy to do my own injections at home. I had permission from the oncologist to self administer the injections as I lived 3-4 hours from the donating facility and could not go there each day. I did my first injection at my local hospital to be monitored for any adverse reactions, and the remaining 3 injections I did myself at home. I had to have 2 subcutaneous injections each night into my lower abdomen. The first few days, I was feeling my usual self. As the medications started to do what they were designed to do, I began to have headaches and bone pain. I took regular paracetamol, which helped.
I was very excited when my donation day finally arrived for many reasons. My partner supported me through the whole thing. We arrived at the hospital around 7:30am to get prepped and ready for the procedure. I had an intravenous catheter inserted into my left arm, the receiving arm, and a bore needle inserted into my right arm, the drawing arm, which took out the stem cells from the circulatory system. I was then connected to the apheresis machine, and the procedure commenced. My partner and I watched movies on the iPad, and the staff brought around snacks regularly. The procedure was completed within about 5-6 hours. They took an extra blood test to check my stem cell count, and I was told I had more than enough for the donation. I was extremely happy and grateful that my body could produce this for someone in need. I was also glad I didn’t have to have any more of the G-CSF injections!
“I had an intravenous catheter inserted into my left arm, the receiving arm, and a bore needle inserted into the right arm, the drawing arm, which took out the stem cells from the circulatory system. I was then connected to the apheresis machine, and the procedure commenced.”
After the procedure, I felt my usual self. A little fatigued, but otherwise, I felt good. I took a week off from work and spent time with family. They were all very supportive and proud of me.
If you are told you are a potential match, my advice is:
- • Take time off work pre and post the procedure to let your body do what it needs to without the physical, mental and emotional stress of work.
- • Ask lots of questions and make sure you are doing this with all the right intentions, and feel fully informed about the whole process.
- • Enjoy it! Take photos and promote the awareness onto others to join the registry.
Learn what happens when you are asked to donate by PBSC.