Orkney man’s 1,200-Mile Round Trip During Lockdown to Donate Stem Cells

May 29, 2020
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A man from Scotland made a 1,200-mile round trip during lockdown to donate stem cells to a cancer patient. Rob Slight, travelled nearly 600 miles from his home in the Orkney Islands to Sheffield.

“I had pretty much forgotten that I was on the donor list as it had been a few years since signing up. The initial feeling was surprise followed by a determination to try and help whoever it is that I am matched with despite the pandemic.

“Donating during the pandemic was quite a strange experience, especially living up on the Orkney Islands! The level of infections at the time were extremely low so we feel very safe and cut off from it all. Going from here down the whole country to Sheffield felt a bit like leaving the safe zone and heading to danger. My travel was sorted by Anthony Nolan, and was really easy - if very long! It took one flight, a night in a hotel and three train rides to get from Orkney to Sheffield. The deserted nature of the train stations and the trains was a bit creepy and made me feel like I was in the opening scene of ‘28 Days Later’ but did help reassure me.

“Overall the donation process was less painful than I expected, the one side effect I had was a slight feeling of nausea, but they give you some tablets to help stop this feeling. Meaning I could quite happily sit there watching Netflix or reading my book. At the end of the donation they like you to wait for a while to check that you are OK and do a blood pressure check, once this was done I headed back to the hotel for a celebratory Dominos Pizza as we can't get these on Orkney!

“Thank you to everyone at the Sheffield Apheresis unit and Anthony Nolan, for making quite a big process so simple and stress free and a massive good luck with all my heart to whoever the recipient is.”

If a patient has a condition that affects their bone marrow or blood, then a stem cell transplant may be their best chance of survival. Doctors will give new, healthy stem cells to the patient via their bloodstream, where they begin to grow and create healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Anthony Nolan needs more young men to sign up as stem cell donors as they are most likely to be chosen to donate, but make up just 18% of the charity’s stem cell register. To join the Anthony Nolan register, you must be 16–30 and healthy. Find out more, and join the register.