I couldn’t stand the thought of children being left without a parent: Emily’s donation story
I found out about stem cell donation while watching TV a few years ago. There was a story about a father who needed a stem cell donation but couldn’t find a match within his family or friends. When I next donated plasma I noticed a sign in the waiting room asking people to join the registry. The story of the father dying was still in my head and so I thought, why not join and maybe help someone one day? As a mother, I couldn’t stand the thought of children being left without a parent if there was a way to help them.
When I was first contacted about donating, I was a little nervous but I also felt quite amazed that out of all the people on the registry, I could possibly be the closest match to someone I had never met. I also felt quite excited as maybe I could help a family have more time together.
After that first phone call I found out quite quickly that I was the closest donor match. I was also informed that my donation might be slightly different, as the recipient required the donation as soon as possible. All of the pre-testing was completed within about four to six weeks (I had been informed that even finding out if you were a match could take three months). The whole process was quite streamlined, and I was kept up to date and informed of all my options the whole time without pressure. I was nervous at times, and felt quite emotional when meeting with the doctors as it did feel like someone’s life depended on me, so I made it clear that I didn’t want to know if the recipient survived. I said that I was quite happy to go through life believing that the recipient survived and lived a long and happy life.
I donated via PBSC so I had to receive a series of G-CSF injections in the days leading up to my donation. The injections were more annoying than painful, though I had to have my husband and work colleagues do it for me as I couldn’t quite bring myself to stick a needle in my stomach. I did get some bone aches and just felt tired on day four and five.
I was quite relieved to get to donation day as I was starting to get quite achy and was told that as soon as the donation process began, I would begin to feel better. I was also nervous about the length of time the donation would take and wanted to get started. Once I was hooked up though I was able to relax and just watched movies and ate snacks. The gravity of what I was doing and what it could mean to the recipient hit me early on, but I don’t think that a few tears are a bad thing.
I did have to go back a second day to donate as my first day’s count wasn’t quite high enough. Even though I knew this was a possibility, I did feel a little overwhelmed at having to go back for another day. Thankfully, the doctors realized that I didn’t need to donate much more so the second day was done in two hours. I was very relieved to be done but also felt hopeful that perhaps I had saved someone’s life and that my body was able to do such a miraculous thing in providing as the nurses called it “liquid gold”.
I wouldn’t say I was surprised, but I was grateful for the support that was offered by all the hospital staff and the ABMDR staff throughout this process. I felt supported and reassured the whole time. No question was left unanswered.
I initially didn’t tell any of my friends and only my husband was aware, as I felt quite unsure of what people might think. Plus knowing that I am anonymous and so is the recipient, I felt like I needed to protect them somehow (as silly as that sounds). I think I also wanted to keep this as something I was doing for the benefit of the recipient, not as something that you “advertise”. It’s hard to explain, but I guess I didn’t want anyone to make a fuss or for it to feel as if I was promoting what I was doing. This was a decision I made to hopefully help someone in need and no-one else needed to know why. I eventually told a few friends and my family, mostly to let them know what the process was like and that if they were able, they should sign up to the register.
To anyone considering becoming a donor, I would say absolutely do it! It is such a rewarding experience. It felt so amazing that my body was able to produce healthy cells that may help another person either survive their illness or even just give them a few more months with their family. It is so worthwhile and for perhaps a few days of discomfort, you could save a life and allow a family more time to be together.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to visit the QLD Processing Centre to see how blood and blood products are processed once they leave the donor centres. It was amazing to see and so informative. I was also lucky to be able to talk to another stem cell donor and share our stories, which was so interesting. I hope that more people join the register and that there is more advertising about the register as it is such an amazing gift to be able to donate.