Join the stem cell register
(don’t worry, you’ll stay on the register until you’re 60)
Who needs my help?
- Around 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant every year
- Only 25% of these will have a matched donor in their family
- The best possible match among strangers is found for just 60% of the remainder (lucky me :-D)
Doesn’t it hurt?
Signing up is super-easy: it just involves a swab of the cells in your cheek. Then, if the planets align and you’re found to be a match, there are two ways you might give your cells. I’ve actually done both (when I was going to have a transplant using my own stem cells), and they were among the very easiest parts of my treatment.
Either way, you’ll get a small injection of G-CSF (a growth hormone) in your belly for the five days leading up to donation.
90% of donors give their stem cells peripherally, where your blood is taken out, spun around to remove the stem cells, and then put back in. It takes four or five hours and you’ll have a jab from a needle in both arms, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. Most people say the worst thing is that it’s a bit boring to be sitting around in hospital for that time.
10% have their stem cells taken from their bone marrow, under general anaesthetic. You’ll be asleep. The stem cells will be taken from your pelvis, so you might be a bit sore for a few days. It’s pretty dreamy waking up from the anaesthetic, though…
What are the criteria?
You need to be:
- between 16 and 55
- weigh more than 7st 12lbs (50kgs), and
- be in general good health
Where do I sign up?
There are three main ways in the UK:
- Anthony Nolan runs the main stem cell register in the UK (they search for matches from registers across the world). Tim signed up with them, and they found him for me! They focus registration on 16-30-year-olds (the younger the match, the better).
- DKMS runs an international register across a number of countries. You can register with them if you’re between 18 and 55 – but just as with Anthony Nolan, you’ll remain on the register until you’re 60.
- If you’re a blood donor (another fantastic way to save lives) aged between 17 and 40 years old, you can ask about joining the register through NHS Blood and Transplant the next time you donate (female registration is limited to BAME individuals).
You never know whose life you might be called upon to save.