Stem cells are amazing. You may think this a biased opinion coming from us, but the following story is here to prove they are amazing. A young man who donated his stem cells so that a woman overseas could receive a lifesaving treatment gets to meet her.
Curious to learn the whole story? Read on…
Stem Cell Donation
If you choose to donate stem cells there are two ways to go about it. As you are about to read, as an adult you can sign up to a register to become an official donor or the alternative is that if you are expecting a baby, you can donate their umbilical cord blood at birth.
For adult stem cell donation, before you sign up, you need to know what you are getting yourself in for. Prior to you being added to the register, you will receive a cheek swab that you will then use (following the instructions) before sending it back to the register. You will then, hopefully, be added to the register. Simple.
Second thing to note is that you may or may not be called up for donation. It could be days, weeks, months, or even years before you get a call with a potential match. Just being on the register however could give someone a chance so it is worth it.
The last thing you need to understand that there are two ways to donate. Most common is via the bloodstream but a small percentage will donate via bone marrow.
Umbilical cord blood donation happens in the moments after birth once the cord has been cut and the placenta has been delivered. A trained professional will collect any remaining cord blood that then goes into a public storage bank (you can also do this privately with Cells4Life – more on this later). There are only a limited number of hospitals that will accept public donations.
Callum Kennedy-Mann signed up for stem cell donation via the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register when he was just 16 years old (you need to be at least 16 in order to become a donor). He was moved by the stem cell donation stories he’d seen pop up on his Facebook feed. He states that since he is the son of a doctor and already a strong advocate for blood and organ donation “joining the stem cell register felt natural’ for him.
Callum put his details into the Anthony Nolan site, submitted them and then received his swab a few days later. He then swabbed his cheek and sent it back. This swab was used by Anthony Nolan to figure out his HLA (human leukocyte antigens) gene type (his genetic characteristics) so that should he then match someone, he’d be contacted about donation.
It would be three years before Callum would hear back.
September of 2019 rolled around while Callum was preparing for university, he received a phone call saying that he could be a match for a patient in need of a stem cell transplant. Full of questions, slightly daunted but ready for the next step, Callum was prepared to help.
The Anthony Nolan team arranged for further blood testing to confirm Callum was the best possible donor and he was. It then all became a reality for Callum as he was no longer a potential donor but in the process of becoming an actual donor.
Pre-donation health checks revealed there were signs of malaria and glandular fever in his system which delayed the donation. He needed to be in good health before the stem cell collection could occur. He had no idea what condition his recipient was in so worried about the delay, but that worry soon turned to relief. In December 2019 the date for stem cell collection was set to be 29 January 2020. The recipient was still well enough to proceed.
Five days before collection a nurse came to Callum’s university to show him how to administer the preparatory drug called G-CSF. This is a growth factor that makes the bone marrow produce more white blood cells and release more stem cells into the bloodstream. On the day of the collection, Callum headed to the hospital, was greeted by the team, and given a rundown of the procedure.
*For those who are a little squeamish we recommend skipping the next paragraph.*
Callum explains how the needle was inserted into his left arm and a catheter was put into his right arm before the machine was switched on. The blood was drawn out of one arm, the stem cells were syphoned out by the machine and then the blood was pumped back into the body via the other arm. After a few hours, the procedure was complete.
In the following month, Callum was desperate to know if the stem cell recipient was doing ok and eventually decided to send an anonymous letter through Anthony Nolan in the hopes of receiving any news back about how his donation was used. He did eventually receive a reply explaining that his recipient was alive and doing well.
Two years later (January 2022), and Callum got a call explaining that the date marked the first day that, if both sides consented, then donor and recipient could make direct contact with each other. Both sides did agree, and Callum learned the woman’s name is Diane Farago… she lives in America!
Callum and Diane chatted via Zoom and eventually Callum and family flew out to visit Diane and her family in Pittsburgh. The two families spent Thanksgiving week together. Diane and her family thanked Callum for his donation and Callum comments that, despite seeing the picture of her battle with cancer, the Diane he met was “healthy and well”. Even now the two individuals are in contact, brought together by extraordinary circumstances.
The full story can be found here on the BBC news site.
Private Cord Blood Storage
Alongside donation, there is the option to privately store your baby’s umbilical cord blood to protect your family. It is a paid service but is worth it for the safety net that your child and other members of the family will have. It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to store these amazing little cells that could be used for treatment should your child or family member fall ill.
If you are curious about our services here at Cells4Life then you can order your FREE welcome pack below or get in contact via email email@example.com or call us on 01444 873950.
Request a Welcome Pack
Find out more about cord blood banking by downloading a Welcome Pack now.