Opinion: Why I wanted to give a critically-ill patient his best chance of life

Opinion: Why I wanted to give a critically-ill patient his best chance of life

Stem cell donor David Gould opens up about his remarkable decision to help save someone's life by undergoing four days of treatment

David Gould saving a life by donating stem cells
David Gould saving a life by donating stem cells

I joined the Anthony Nolan stem cell register in my first few weeks at Leeds University. I thought nothing of it until two months ago when, on a lunch break at work, I checked my phone and saw I’d missed call and a text saying: “URGENT! We are trying to contact David…”.

I joined the Anthony Nolan register when a friend and fellow Jewish Society member at the University of Leeds was diagnosed with Anaplastic Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and needed a life-saving stem cell transplant. Although my friend Alex successfully had his own stem cells transplanted back into him – making a full recovery –
I,  and many of my friends, remained on the register.

On the phone to Anthony Nolan, I had many many questions: What does it involve? How long would I need off work? Who was the patient and what were their survival chances? As soon as I understood that there would be absolutely no long-term impact on me, yet I was going to be giving a critically-ill patient his best chance of life, I knew deep down I had to go ahead with it.

I arranged to go to the Anthony Nolan offices the next day to give blood samples to confirm if I was the best match.

At this point I knew the chances of me being a match and the procedure going ahead were approximately one-in-four.

For a few weeks it slipped to the back of my mind but then I received a letter confirming me as the best match, shortly followed by a phone call giving the date of my stem cell donation.

Anthony Nolan was amazing –arranging absolutely everything and even managing to answer the concerns of an anxious Jewish mother.

They visited during donation as well as arranging for a companion to travel and stay in London to support me. Work were very supportive, too, enabling me to take time off and work flexibly so my donation could go ahead.

There are many false myths surrounding stem cell donation. My donation was simple, comfortable and straightforward. For the four days before donation, I received G-CSF injections. This naturally-occurring stimulant makes the bones create more stem cells and release them into the bloodstream. This was perhaps the hardest part of the donation process as my bones ached a little and I felt as if I had flu.

On the day of donation, I was hooked up to a large machine for around four hours, which took blood out of my left arm, removed the extra stem cells and put my blood back into my right arm.

During the procedure, I was awake and chatting and busy on my phone and laptop. Following the procedure, my aches had totally gone.

I was tired but pain-free and happy.

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