Luke Mills first became aware of the Anthony Nolan charity when he was 18, six years ago. ‘I stumbled across it whilst researching blood disorders for an A-level biology project,’ he said. Anthony Nolan helps match donors with the 2,000 people in the UK every year who need a stem cell transplant to fight blood cancer.
To join the Anthony Nolan register as a donor, all you need to be is aged 16-30 and healthy. But the charity needs more young men: they are the most likely to be called on but constitute only 15% of the register. It also needs more people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
When you apply as a potential donor, the charity first checks your genetic profile from a saliva sample. When they match you with a patient in need they perform blood tests to confirm you’re a close enough match and they give you a medical and take a chest X-ray.
Luke works in a hospital and is aware that some potential donors might be squeamish, but he urges you not to let it put you off. ‘It was such an exciting time; the idea that I could potentially save a life was an amazing feeling! More than anything I was grateful for the opportunity,’ Luke said.
‘As I was donating peripherally, I had to have a short course of injections to stimulate my stem cells to enter my blood stream ready for collection; this was done over a course of four days. The charity organised for nurses to visit me at home to administer the drug, at a time that suited me. They made the whole process so simple and easy.
‘Then the big day came. I went up London the night before and stayed in a hotel. This was all paid for by the charity, including expenses such as food and train tickets! Not only that they cover your loss of earnings too!
‘The actual donation process is really simple. You lie on a bed for four hours: one needles takes blood into the machine and one returns it when the stem cells have been filtered out. After a couple of days rest you’re back to normal.’
‘All I can say is that hopefully the stem cells work and give my recipient another chance at life. It’s the best Christmas present I’ve ever given and I doubt I’ll be able to ever better it!’
Ann O’Leary, head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, says: ‘Luke has done an incredibly selfless thing and given someone with blood cancer their best chance at survival. We are delighted that he has been inspired to encourage others to sign up as donors.’
For more information, visit the Anthony Nolan website.