One small decision - Christiern's stem cell donation story

Christiern Francis is one of our lifesaving donors - and he now works at Anthony Nolan helping to find matches for patients in need. Read his story here:
September 8, 2015
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Christiern Francis is one of our lifesaving donors - and he now works at Anthony Nolan helping to find matches for patients in need! Read his blog post to find out more:

Life is full of small decisions. Little did I know that on an ordinary day, en route for a pint in the student union, one of these small decisions was about to directly impact someone’s life – and it was all thanks to the work of Anthony Nolan.

Having barely heard of Anthony Nolan, I was asked if I would join their bone marrow register at a university sign up event. I had no reason not to. After being fully informed about the process by one of the many fantastic volunteers, I could not have been happier to sign up.

Three or four months later I received a call from Paul, one of the donor provision coordinators; I was a match.

There was nothing to think about – the whole thing just made sense. A couple of blood tests later, and Paul confirmed I was a match for a male living in Europe. A trip to London for a medical, and I was confirmed healthy to donate.


If it hadn’t felt real before, it was starting to now.

I was studying for my Biology degree and had a couple of big deadlines to meet – but obviously, the recipient’s need far outweighed the not-so-perfect timing of the donation. Fortunately, Anthony Nolan was able to help, and provided a letter to my university explaining the situation. I was given extra time to complete the coursework that was due during the donation process.

Up until this point the most I had thought about my donation was that I had cells another person needed. In my head, it seemed very straightforward. So it came as a shock to me when people would say how impressed they were; or tell me what a good thing I was doing, ‘saving someone’s life’.

I remember these comments being pretty poignant; the whole thing, which I hadn’t given much thought to, felt a bit more serious now. What if I wasn’t good enough for this poor chap? What if I couldn’t help him?

A couple of weeks later, and having stopped thinking about the ‘what ifs’, I received my course of GCSF injections and was off to London. My friend and I arrived at the hospital, everything prepared and ready to go. I was hooked up to the PBSC machine, and after four-ish hours watching TV and chatting, it was done. My cells were off to go and help a complete stranger.


'It's great knowing I'm now able to give something back'

Three years on, and I’m now fortunate enough to be a cog in the Anthony Nolan machine, working as a Search and Selection Coordinator. I work as part of a great team of people, responsible for finding and matching donors with patients, whether from our own register or international registries. The job, although sometimes challenging, is hugely rewarding – it’s great knowing that I’m now able to give something back and really make a difference in people’s lives.

During my first week at Anthony Nolan, I was asked if I’d like an update on the recipient of my cells. Intrigued, I said yes. A week later I received the news that my recipient was alive. To date, this is the most satisfying update I have ever received; knowing that somewhere in Europe a family hasn’t had to unfairly lose a brother, a son or a father.

In the end, I chose not to contact the recipient directly. For me, it wasn’t my choice, but theirs. That person might want to just get on with their life without being reminded of the struggle they have been through.

But if I was ever contacted by them, I’d gladly get to know a bit about their life and their story. And yes, if they wanted to meet up, of course I would! (Mainly I’d just want to see if they have the same bloody hay fever I have to put up with, year in year out.)

One thing I am sure of is that no one enters into the donation process for thanks, And as I’m better off as a result of being part of the process, maybe I should be thanking them. At the start of the process I didn’t even think my ‘small decision would amount to anything.


'You could save a life and a family with one small act'

But in fact, it ended up influencing me, and gave me a chance to channel my enjoyment of science into something really worthwhile and rewarding. And best of all, it’s positively impacted a stranger’s life.

If you’re undecided, or have never even thought about signing up, go to the website, get in touch with Anthony Nolan and get some information to base your decision on.

For me, once I knew the good I could do just by being on the register, the choice was taken away from me; it was a no-brainer. In my head, it’s that old coastguard analogy; you don’t appreciate them until you, your family, or friends need them.

You could save a life and a family with one small act.

Aged 16–30 and in good general health? Join the Anthony Nolan register by clicking on the button below.

Each new donor costs us £100 to add to the register - you can support us and help us save more lives by donating money at the link below.