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“It was my way of practising what I preached.”

September 15, 2023

Lisa’s donation story

I had almost forgotten about joining the registry when, over 15 years later, I received an unexpected call. It turned out I was a possible match for a patient in need. I was excited and intrigued.

My first job in the healthcare industry was with the Bone Marrow Donor Institute in early 2000. Working at BMDI opened my eyes to the critical importance of blood stem cell donors. At the time we were looking to recruit more donors to sign up to the registry, so I joined up too. It was my way of practising what I preached.

When I got the call, I was told that I was one of about five people who were a possible match, and they were going through the process too. There was paperwork to fill out, along with a blood test. It was explained to me that at this early stage I still might not be the best match. Evidently, someone else was a better match than me. I was a little disappointed as I was ready to go. That wasn’t the end of the story though, as a few months later I received another call explaining that they would like me to be the donor after all. I was thrilled.

I donated via PBSC, which required daily injections of G-CSF in the days leading up to my donation. That was a unique experience. While needles didn’t bother me, I had a friend administer the injections as my husband is not so good with needles. I had no noticeable side effects.

On the day of donation I was a little nervous but mostly excited to be doing something so significant. There was still uncertainty leading up to the day as the patient was so vulnerable that conditions needed to be perfect. Luckily, they were, and I spent the day in the hospital. I had one-on-one full-time support from the most delightful nurse. I slept, watched TV and actually had quite a nice day being hooked up to the machine.

It was so fascinating to watch, I can’t remember the litres they took out, but once they took the bone marrow out, they put the blood back into me so I didn’t feel too bad at all. I was asked to come back the next day for a few more hours of donation which I happily did. Maybe I have some super bone marrow rich blood?

The care and support I was shown from all the staff assisting the process was awesome. Everything was clearly explained, and all my personal concerns were heard – it was all so easy. I was a bit tired after the donation, but it was the weekend so I enjoyed a few lazy days. I felt so lucky that I was able to give this gift of hope to a family.

I was surprised at how simple the whole process was. There was hardly any discomfort, no side effects and minimal time. I also loved receiving updates and the call each year post-donation about how the recipient had initially received the transplant and if it was successful. I was so thrilled to hear that it was a success and her body had taken my bone marrow so well!

My friends and family were pretty intrigued when I told them about the donation. My children were the reason I did it, I wanted to model to them what I believe life is about, yes it might be scary doing something unknown but look at what we can do for someone else.

My son asked me how much I was being paid as he said it was a pretty big deal. I told him I wasn’t being paid and I was not even privy to who was donating to. It was such a valuable lesson for our children in learning that we don’t do good deeds for the credit but because it is the right thing to do.

If I had any advice for others who are about to donate, it would be “if you can, you must” (quote from Emma Carey – The Girl who Fell From the Sky). The opportunity to give someone a second chance at life is profound. It took so little effort on my part but has the power to change, if not save the life of someone else. I thought about my family being unwell and relying on a stranger to help, what a gift!

I would happily do this again and would feel very lucky to be matched again.


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