My Stem Cell Donation Story – Scott McGregor

In August 2018 I received information via post from Anthony Nolan that I had been identified as a match for a patient with blood cancer. Along with this was a pack of test tubes to be filled with blood samples and returned to confirm an exact match.

In December of 2018 I was flown to one of the collection centres in London to have a medical in order to confirm I was fit and healthy enough to go ahead with donation within 30 days of this date. At this time I was given further information that I was to donate stem cells via PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) transplant. This is when stem cells are withdrawn effectively via a blood transfusion where your blood is withdrawn over a period of 4-5 hours, stem cells filtered and removed from the blood using a special machine. Your blood is then returned to your body minus the vital stem cells which will be couriered and transplanted into the waiting patient within 48 hours. To achieve the best possible outcome in terms of stem cell quantities extracted I was put on a 4 day course of GCSF injections in the days leading up to the collection. This involves a nurse coming to my work and home to inject me in 4 different area of the body. The purpose of the injections was essentially to overdose my body in stem cells and release them from my bone marrow into my blood stream. There were some minimal side effects of this drug , mainly fatigue and pain in my larger bones , especially towards the latter of the course of injections.

On Monday the 14th of January I flew down to London where I spent the night in a hotel in the city. The morning of the next day I was admitted to The London Clinic hospital close to Regents Park. I was well looked after throughout the day and was kept as comfortable as possible. The procedure started around 9:30 am and I was hooked up to the machine , a needle was inserted into my non dominant arm (due to the fact my arm would have to stay completely straight throughout) and a cannula inserted into my other arm. Throughout the next 4.5 hours blood was constantly drawn, filtered and returned to my body. The procedure was more uncomfortable than painful but bearable, especially as I couldn’t stop thinking about the person who was going to be receiving this within a matter of hours. I can’t really describe the feeling I had when I watched the first batch of stem cells enter the collection bag. A sense of achievement I suppose but more humble than anything as I knew I was giving someone the best chance of surviving this horrible illness.

About halfway through the collection a representative from Anthony Nolan visited my bedside and spoke to me for around 30-40 minutes about Anthony Nolan and hit me with some mind blowing statistics. One of which was that only 2% of the UK are registered Stem Cell Donors, another one was that around 104 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer every day.

I also learned a little about the patient that would be receiving my Stem Cells. I know that I will be helping an adult female at this time , and in due course I will find out more information about them. Also, this woman could be anywhere in the world and not just the United Kingdom.

Upon completion of the collection , a small batch was counted in order to determine if enough was donated to fulfil the patients required dose. Against a target of 4 million stem cells, I managed to produce over 8.32 million stem cells in the bag shown in the picture. When I was told this I felt amazing, that I had made over double the amount of stem cells available for this woman , giving her the best chance at survival.

I stayed another night in the hotel before flying home the next day spending that day recovering from the aftermath which was mainly tiredness and some aches from the GCSF injections. I returned to work on the Thursday sporting two pins holes on my arms and a beaming smile on my face.

For now I’ll wait for any correspondence from the family of this woman via Anthony Nolan on how their progress has been and hopefully after 2 years of treatment I will get the opportunity to meet the individual.

I could not promote the work that Anthony Nolan do enough and strongly encourage anyone aged 16-30 to sign up and become registered to give someone a second chance at life.

https://www.anthonynolan.org