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Nathan was “eternally grateful” to donate his blood stem cells

June 30, 2022

On Nathan’s wall at home, he has a framed thank-you letter and artwork from the stem-cell recipient, passed on via Strength to Give. It’s his daily reminder of the incredible gift he gave a complete stranger.

“It was quite a moving experience reading (the letter) because it really hit home the sense of hope this process had given the family,” he says.

“It’s the first time you actually put a human connection to what you’ve done.”

Up until this point, Nathan and the patient had zero contact, with the donor process being anonymous for the first two years post-donation.

Becoming a donor

Nathan was at cricket practice when he learnt all about the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, the non-profit organisation behind Strength to Give. Fourteen months after he signed up, Nathan got a phone call.

“My heart just started pounding because I thought ‘wow, this could be potentially the match’.”

After some additional blood work confirming the genetic match, Nathan started the journey to donate peripheral blood stem cells, the primary donation type.

“Everyone had the idea of a transplant being the big needle in your side, and I guess that’s what I pictured it to be, until they explained that it’s a lot easier these days to be able to extract,” Nathan says.

The donation

A few days prior to the transplant, donors boost their blood stem cells with injections they can self-administer. When it’s time to donate, they undergo a procedure similar to dialysis, during which blood is taken out of one arm, filtered to remove the stem cells, and put back in the other arm.

“It was very straightforward and relatively pain-free,” says Nathan.

“The only uncomfortable part about it was keeping your arms straight for seven hours in bed. But, other than that, you’re on your phone, you’re watching TV, eating and drinking, and having a nap in between.”

It was such a seamless – and rewarding – process, Nathan says he wouldn’t hesitate helping again.

“If I had the chance to do it all over again, 100 percent I would do it.

“Whenever I’m having a bad day, I think ‘well, I had the opportunity to do that’.”


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