Donor Stories - what is it like to donate stem cells via PBSC?

Stephen Angell is one of our amazing donors - he gave a stem cell donation in July 2015 and helped a patient in desperate need. Read Stephen's story to find out what it's like to donate stem cells, and why he's proud to be a donor.
July 28, 2015
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Stephen Angell is one of our amazing donors - he gave a stem cell donation in July 2015 and helped a patient in desperate need. Read Stephen's story to find out what it's like to donate stem cells, and why he's proud to be a donor.

I joined the stem cell register at a recruitment event at my sixth form college. Anthony Nolan gave a compelling presentation showing just how easy and life-changing donation could be. I couldn't think of a reason not to sign up! [find out more about our Register & Be A Lifesaver programme in schools here]

Initially it did slip to the back of my mind because the spit kit test was so simple and quick, although I did do a little bit of reading around on the internet as I had no idea about Anthony Nolan or bone marrow transplants. I was a little bit sceptical of PBSC transplants as they almost sounded too easy to be true! [watch the process of donation in our video here]

Stephen finds out he is a potential match

More than a year later, I left my last lesson one Friday afternoon to find a missed call and a text from Anthony Nolan. I called back as quickly as possible to find I had a potential match.

Everything was explained to me over the phone, and a few days later I received a really helpful pack explaining what would be happening over the next few months.

It was a really exciting time – I couldn't wait to tell my friends and family. It was almost like the cliché you hear prize-winners say on TV: 'Things like this never happen to normal people like me.’ I was really chuffed.

Dealing with misconceptions around donation

90% of the time, though, anyone who hadn't been shown the Anthony Nolan presentation would either cringe or wince when I said 'bone marrow transplant'.

Their replies would usually either be, 'Ooooh, that sounds nasty!' or, 'That's really dangerous, you know.’

A few people told me that there'd be a lot of drilling into my spine and I was given all sorts of horror stories. I can't even count how many times I had to explain just how easy PBSC transplants are! [find out more about the myths and reality of donation here].

I have to admit that after sending away my first blood tests I did get a little bit anxious about the donation; everything became real and official. I could actually be saving a person’s life. It was all a bit much to take in!

However, there were loads of great resources on the Anthony Nolan website [find out more here] and Anthony Nolan was always there to answer any of my questions.

Stephen's stem cell donation - 'The entire experience was a pleasure'

In the end, I donated in July 2015, at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire – one week ago at the time of writing! I was a bit tired the day after my donation, but a good night’s sleep solved that and I’m feeling great again.

The entire experience was a pleasure. From Day 1, Anthony Nolan has been there to give me any information I needed.

They arranged transport and accommodation for me and my friend, and even popped in for a visit to make sure everything was OK and to give me information about what happens next for me and my recipient.

The nurses were lovely and a great laugh. The process itself couldn't have been easier. A little needle scratch was all I felt as they hooked me up to the machine. The nurses explained everything that was happening and made sure I was happy and comfortable.

We played a few games of Frustration with the nurses (we quickly learned that nurses always win) and they even brought some DVDs in for us to watch; we were out the door by lunchtime. It was as easy as that!

'You could already be somebody's hero - and not even know it'

All I’d say to anyone who’s thinking about signing up is this: what do you have to lose and what do they have to gain? By doing something so simple you could be completely transforming the life of not just a cancer patient, but their children, partner, parents, friends or anyone who cares about them.

We'd all like to think that a stranger would step up in our time of need, but sometimes we're that stranger! You could already be somebody's hero and not even know it.

If you're aged 16–30, you can join the bone marrow register and become a potential donor at