I joined the registry at 18 when I first migrated to Australia. I felt privileged to be able to join and help where possible, but I had no idea what an immediate impact I could make until I received a call a few years ago saying I was a potential match.
I felt really excited and quite emotional that I could help someone in need. Without any real understanding of the procedure, I expected a tough surgery which I was fully willing to do, knowing it was a tiny sacrifice to my fortunate life. I soon found out that I wasn’t going in for a surgical procedure. Instead, I was undergoing a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. This is where a needle is inserted into one of my arms, my stem cells are filtered out, and the blood is returned to my other arm.
I was also told the match was for someone in Switzerland, which was incredible. I began to understand how lucky this match was.
I can’t remember it well now, being a few years ago I donated, but I underwent blood work and tests, which didn’t start well. I fainted. I’m a bit of a fainter when donating blood or plasma, but happy to say it was smooth sailing after that.
My friends and family were all excited and happy for me. Mostly once I explained that this wasn’t a terrifying bone marrow transplant like in the movies. It wasn’t invasive at all. That just put them at ease, knowing how to react and what support I needed, but they were all just as excited as me.
In preparing for my PBSC donation, I was given G-CSF (Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor) injections to help boost the number of stem cells circulating in my blood. I did get some aches in my lower back, as expected, but nothing bad. I was in heavy training for a triathlon, and the injections hardly impacted me at all.
Before the donation, I was scared. However, donating was so easy in the end – and this is from someone who is clearly not good with needles. I was incredibly comfortable the entire time. Being surrounded by people in the ward who were receiving their own treatments, I felt incredibly privileged once again, knowing what I was doing was just a tiny amount of work. The day went really well, thanks to all involved.
After I donated, I felt absolutely fine as far as I can remember. I felt nothing but gratitude and happiness.
What I would say to those who go on to donate is to be proud of yourself and share the experience with others. I can only hope others know how little it takes to make a real difference.
If you can donate, do it. I would do it again should I get the chance!