The phone rang on Friday afternoon. Typically, I missed the call and picked up my voicemail. Then fell off my chair.
It’s been less than a month since the email saying Anthony Nolan had processed my blood and have added me to their register with a special flag next to my name and at the time I thought “Aww, that’s nice!” In the meantime we’ve had our Relay, though; so I gave it little thought and did not really expect to hear anything.
Yet here I was; phone glued to my ear listening to those fateful words; “You’re a match”.
The world stopped.
My heart stopped.
The rest of the message faded into the background as my head swam with every emotion possible. I listened to the message again to make sure I wasn’t dreaming; then once more JUST to be sure.
Then the penny dropped. This is my chance to give back. I have been called upon to save a life like someone saved my dad’s life! Pride swelled in my chest and a grin spread across my face. I felt proud and honoured, a little smug (tiny pang of guilt crept in at that point – it’s not about me it’s about someone who needs help!)
Then I felt like I was wasting time; this wasn’t a real person on the phone this was a pre-recorded message. One I’d listened to three times already. I couldn’t afford to waste time; I had a life to save!
Quick as a flash I grabbed pencil and scribbled down the number in the message and returned the call straight away. As I was dialling I realised that despite this myriad of emotions, the message had only been received five minutes ago. I could afford a deep breath; so indulged. It’s amazing how oxygen can revitalise you!
A touch calmer and a little less blue in the face, conversation seemed relatively straightforward with Rizwana, the lovely young lady with the northern accent who was expecting my call.
One thing that struck me was how much choice and control I appeared to have; I was able to veto the method of donation and the date too.
For those of you unaware, there are 3 ways to donate stem cells; the traditional way is extracting bone marrow from the lower hip (large needle, general anaesthetic, overnight stay in hospital); or the much simpler peripheral method of taking blood from one arm, running it through a machine to extract the relevant cells, and pumping it back into the other arm. 5 hours of being sat around chilling out. The third is donating an umbilical cord but as I’ve none of those to give we can instantly discard that idea… Obviously everyone would prefer the peripheral method as it’s less invasive and most donations are now done this way. But this patient’s medical team, for reasons unclear but I’m sure very valid and based on very technical know-how, had specifically asked for bone marrow.
I was okay with this. I was genuinely surprised when I was given the option to request otherwise. I had signed up to the register agreeing to go through this if required but here I was being offered an easy way out? Tempting; so tempting…
No. I did agree to give marrow if required. The patient’s medical team didn’t request this for fun did they? There is somebody out there in a hospital needing my bone marrow. Not just my stem cells; the marrow itself. That’s a commitment I cannot back out of.
It was at this point that I realised that this thought process was part of my internal monologue but an eccentric ramble at a rather bemused Rizwana. Blushing, (luckily it was a phone call and she couldn’t see!) I quickly apologised and tried to get back on track.
Then to the date: my other half’s 30th birthday. “Hmm,” said I; “not that it’s a problem but…”
“Not a problem!” Rizwana quickly replied. “The second choice date is a week later. Is that convenient?” Luckily it was so we quickly agreed on that.
It was only then it even dawned on me that my employer may want to know I was committing to time off. “Shall I let you call your boss?” (yes I’m rapidly realising that I vocalise more than I’m aware). I frantically called my boss and left a garbled, panicked message on his answerphone and anxiously waited for a response. I have to give them their dues; my employers have been incredibly supportive and accommodating throughout this process; starting with an unreserved “yes of course” even before I gave them the date. So that set I called Rizwana back to firm up the details.
That call didn’t last too long; just to confirm that she would send over all the details via email and post the following week; and provisionally arranged a date to go for a medical a month before.
So that gave me a nice boost for the weekend and a bit of time to sit back and appreciate that I was about to change someone’s life. It brought back memories of hearing the news that the Anthony Nolan Trust had found a match for my dad and how happy we all were that someone was able to help him.