One day, it could be your name flashing across our computer screens as a possible match for someone in desperate need of a transplant. Exciting, eh?
If that happens, we’ll get in touch and ask you to provide blood samples. That’s so we can make sure you’re a match and are healthy enough to donate.
And if you are? You could be about to save a life.
You can donate your stem cells in two ways.
Nearly 90% of people donate their stem cells in a process called peripheral blood stem cell collection. The process involves having a course of injections prior to collection to stimulate the bone marrow and increase the number of stem cells and white blood cells in the blood. During collection, you will have a needle in each arm for up to five hours.
The other 10% donate through bone marrow, where they give cells from the bone marrow in their pelvis.
If you’re on the register, you must be happy to donate stem cells in either way.
Want to know more? Then have a watch of our lovely little animation
At a specialist collection centre in one of four hospitals: two are in London, another in Sheffield and one in Manchester.
We’ll organise and pay for your travel and hotel, so don’t worry about costs. We recommend you bring a companion with you. We will make the necessary arrangements for them as well.
It’s an easy process.
A nurse will come to your home or office to give you injections of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) over four days. This is a naturally-occurring hormone which increases the number of stem cells your body produces. After the fourth day of injections, you will donate the next day.
You’ll travel to the collection centre. For the PBSC procedure, you will be asked to lie on a bed or reclining chair while a needle is put into each arm. Blood is drawn out of one arm and fed into a cell-separating machine. Inside the machine your stem cells are filtered out. The red blood cells are then put back into your blood stream through a second needle.
Donating only takes about 4-5 hours. Occasionally we’ll need to collect more cells the following day. You won’t need a general anaesthetic or to stay in hospital overnight, though.
You might experience side effects like flu-like symptoms and aching, but they’re usually mild and only last just a couple of days.
You’ll spend two nights in hospital. Under general anaesthetic, doctors will take some bone marrow from your pelvis using a needle and syringe.
You’ll probably feel tired and have a little bruising and pain in your lower back after donation. But this generally passes within a week or so.
A courier will collect your cells and deliver them to the hospital where the recipient is waiting. They’ll usually give your stem cells to the recipient the same day or the day after you donate.
If the recipient’s body accepts them, the stem cells will start making healthy blood cells. You’ve given that person the chance to live – all while you were lying in bed. Not bad, eh?
We may be able to give you updates on their progress.
You may communicate anonymously and Anthony Nolan will channel this communication. After a two-year confidentiality period, if you both want to, you can get in direct contact with your recipient. This may depend on each transplant centre regulations. Find out more information here.
Join our register now and give hope to people with blood cancer.
‘I’m not a fan of needles but it was absolutely fine. It wasn’t painful at all, just some strange sensations. It only took about four hours. I felt absolutely shattered afterwards but I was back to normal the next day.
I felt emotional and I couldn’t wait to hear about my recipient. It was strange looking at the bag of cells, thinking it will be in someone within 72 hours. I was smiling the whole time knowing I could be saving someone’s life.’
Calum McDonald Wood, who donated stem cells via PBSC