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Donating stem cells and bone marrow (twice!) - James' story

If you’re on the Anthony Nolan register, you have about a 1 in 900 chance of being chosen as a match for a patient with blood cancer or a blood disorder in the next five years (1 in 200 if you’re a young man).

Which makes James’ story all the more incredible – because in the past five years, he’s donated three times! Here he shares his experiences of donating stem cells and bone marrow.

I’ve donated bone marrow twice and stem cells once in the last five years – and I’d do it again if I was allowed to.

My first bone marrow donation

The first time I got the call was the summer of 2010. I had just finished university, and was saving to go travelling.

After a few trips to London for medical assessments and blood tests, I found myself at King’s College Hospital, ready for a bone marrow harvest. Yes, going under a general anaesthetic is always going to make you nervous, but think of the recipient! They need you, and what you’re doing is a walk in the park.

I felt a little sore for about two weeks post-donation, but fit enough to sit through my graduation a week afterwards and fly to Australia a fortnight later (so nothing major).

James in Australia, meeting Ricky Ponting

My second bone marrow donation

Fast forward to December 2014, and I get another call saying I’m a match. So more tests, more medicals (the staff at King’s College recognised me from 2010) and more assessments. By February 2015, I was back in the same room as the first donation (the room had been upgraded slightly).

Two nights in hospital, and another bone marrow harvest completed. You will never get a better feeling, knowing you’ve given someone the chance of life.

The remains of James’ breakfast, after his second bone marrow donation

Just as before, a couple of weeks with a slightly sore back – and the sense of pride far outweighs that.

My stem cell donation

To my amazement, I got another call in May 2015, saying the patient had complications with his/her operation, which meant I was needed again.

This time, I donated stem cells. This was much easier than donating bone marrow. I had GCSF injections a few days before, which made your bones ache a little, but as soon as the procedure was complete that had gone.

Going back to King’s College Hospital for the sixth time, I was on first-name terms with a lot of the staff (they were brilliant).

After being hooked up for five hours, I was free to go home. The whole day ran smoothly and was pain-free. The worst part about it was the daytime TV!

James, back for Round 3 to donate his stem cells

The support I’ve had from my family and friends had been huge, especially as I’ve gone through it all three times. (They know who they are!)

Donating is definitely not scary! I’d encourage as many people to sign up to Anthony Nolan as possible – after all, what if it was a member of your family?

If you’d like to read more stories from real-life stem cell and bone marrow donors, visit anthonynolan.org/myths or join the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #DonatingIsntScary.

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

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Stem cell donation
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Archived Patient stories Stem cell donor