I want your blood (well, not me so much)

In the run-up to Hallowe’en it seems appropriate to delve again into the world of free-flowing blood that is stem cell donation.

Just over 3 years ago I was lucky enough to be selected as a stem cell donor for an anonymous recipient on the continent, presumably (because if not, then it was quite cheeky) because they are/were suffering some form of blood cancer. Going along with the process seemed like a no-brainer to me, indeed at most stages I was really concerned that some reason would be found why I wasn’t a suitable donor, or couldn’t donate at that time. I still feel quite bitter about the time I was turned away from donating blood because I had a cold, even though I understand the reasons.

No reasons were found why I shouldn’t/couldn’t donate, so I had a lovely trip to London where the stem cells were sucked out of me. The hardest part about it was guiding the community nurse who had to visit me to the holiday cottage I was staying in, in Ludlow (which I didn’t know *at all*, and neither did she. Her: “I’ve just gone over a bridge into town.” Me: “I need more clues. All I know is I can see a castle from here.”) closely followed by remembering not to bend my arm when it had the big metal needle in it for 4 hours. Oh, and having a cannula stuck in my hand overnight in warm weather made me feel slightly like I could do with one of those cones the vets use to stop me gnawing my arm off.

But other than that, it was a breeze.

I go more into the pro’s and cons in my summary, written at the time.

So, why revisit it now? Other than to perpetuate the smug feeling a bit longer (I donated stem cells, did I mention that?), and join in with the general bloodthirstiness of Hallowe’en, my whole point in writing anything about any of this online is to encourage other people to put their hands up.

Sign up to be a bone marrow donor.

They hardly ever stick wide bore needles into your thigh bones these days. While it’s not a procedure for the needle-averse, it’s not properly painful and your worst enemy is boredom. I got through day 1 with Richard Herring interviewing Tim Minchin and laughed so much I nearly bent my arm (see above).

If you’re over 49, work on the young people you have in your life to get them to do it – you’re close to being over the hill as the cut-off, depending on which organisation wants your blood, is either 30 or 49 – but under that age you have no excuse.

Another reason why this is on my mind is that I’m lined up to give blood again for the first time since then, in a couple of weeks. You should (all) do that, too and if you already do then signing up for the bone marrow registry is super easy – just ask them about it while you’re there.  I’ve left it shamefully long, which is going to make it harder for me to hit my next milestone of 25 donations. My competitive self is giving me a good kicking about that, worry not.

So, I’ll say it again. Sign up to be a bone marrow donor. You may never get called, but if you do, you get to save a life. And you may get a free t-shirt.