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'I've donated both bone marrow and stem cells' - Andrew's story

Andrew Checkley is a remarkable man. Not only has he been a lifesaving donor twice – giving both bone marrow and stem cells and experiencing both methods of donation – but he's also volunteered as a donor visitor to help other people going through the same experience.

In this blog, he tells his incredible story.

My story starts about 20 years ago. I was in my local doctor’s and saw a leaflet for Anthony Nolan. I was already a blood donor, and thought that this would be another way that I could help people.

I filled in the form and sent it off and after sending the sample, I thought nothing about it. I then received a letter saying that I was a possible match, but after further tests, I was not a close enough match to actually donate.

It was a couple of years before I heard from Anthony Nolan again. It was another letter saying I was a potential match – but this time I was a close enough match to actually donate. I was quite excited to think that I had been matched up with someone and had the opportunity to potentially save their life.

It was a bit frustrating as the procedure had to be cancelled twice as the recipient was not well enough. I was asked to donate the bone marrow itself, which is done under general anaesthetic.

I wasn’t scared during the run-up to the procedure, as everything was explained fully by the staff at The London Clinic. I was also given a full health MOT, so I knew I was OK to donate.

The procedure was carried out first thing in the morning, so I had the rest of the day to recovery before returning home. Apart from a dull ache in my back, I had no problems, and this had gone after a couple of days.

Anthony Nolan did a press release, which resulted in my story being in the local newspaper and I was also interviewed on BBC Radio. You just never know where being a donor may lead!

Unfortunately, due to confidentiality laws, I was not able to find out anything about my recipient but I knew I had done what I could to help them.

That is not, however, the end of my story; a couple of years after giving for the first time, I received another letter from Anthony Nolan, again saying that I was a potential match.

Again, after giving further samples, I was the best match for another recipient. This time, I was asked to donate by the PBSC method. This involved having three injections on consecutive days to boost the number of cells in my body, prior to going down to London again.

After receiving a fourth injection, I had a long lie on the bed in a hospital ward with a needle in each arm. My blood was taken from one arm, spun round to extract the cells and then the remaining blood was put back.

I didn’t have any effects from the injections or the procedure. The biggest problem is boredom. The process takes in the region of 5 hours, so I spent the time watching DVDs.

It is difficult to do much else, as you have needles in both arms. Eating lunch is also a bit difficult, but there was someone there who was able to give me a hand. I would encourage anyone to sign up who is able to do so. The greater the number of people who are on the register, the greater the chances of finding matches . By being a match, you could save someone’s life. What better thing can we do than that?

If you'd like to sign up as a lifesaving donor and you're aged between 16–30, click on the button below to register on our website.

If you've donated stem cells or bone marrow and would like to share your story on this blog to encourage others to sign up, email


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