Meet Pete Andrews who is pictured here with me at The Beer Marketing Awards on 14 April; this photo was taken on the very same day that his peripheral stem cells were harvested in readiness for his brother, Chris (29) who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in December last year.
Chris had his stem cell transplant a couple of days later, engraftment has since occurred (this is when the new blood-forming cells start to grow and make healthy blood stem cells that show up in your blood – it is an important milestone in a transplant patient’s recovery) and he now appears to be virtually 100% donor cells (a good sign).
Chris was very pleased to celebrate his sixth wedding anniversary with his wife Lizzie at the end of May.
So far, so good !
There’s roughly a 25% chance that siblings offer one another a Human Leukocyte Antigen match (usually referred to as a HLA match or simply a tissue type match) – alas, when Margot’s brothers, Oscar & Rufus were tested, neither of them provided a match for their sister. Hence our appeal for an unrelated donor.
“We were told that without a stem cell transplant, Chris would die.” explains Pete. “Thankfully, the blood test revealed that I was a perfect match for Chris, so for me it was a really easy decision to donate.”
“People have said ‘well done’ to me and remarked that I must be so brave, but what I did is really nothing compared to the treatments Chris has had to endure. Thousands of people die each year of blood cancer and many of those fatalities might be avoided if more people were on the stem cell register. Hopefully, people will get a sense from the photographs of my experience that it’s a small commitment to make in order to save someone’s life.”
Pete has been a Team Margot supporter from the very beginning and he and his team at Vektor also happen to be the creatives who design our T shirts, running vests, wristband display boxes and window stickers.
Below are a series of photos that Pete took during his donation process, along with some brief notes he wrote at the time.
Thank you for sharing Pete ! Wishing Chris continued good progress and a full and complication free recovery.
Together, saving lives
Recap on Stem cell / Bone Marrow donation: What’s involved
There are two ways in which donors provide stem cells, the method of collection is dictated by the patients consultant:
1. Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation – this is the harvest process Pete went through in April (see below)
This is the method used for almost 90% of donations. Stem cells are collected via the blood stream. To increase the number of cells in the blood stream, for four consecutive days prior to the stem cell collection, donors receive a daily injection to stimulate stem cell production (G-CSF). On the day of donation, the donor’s blood is collected from one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood stem cells (apheresis).
The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm. This is a non-surgical outpatient procedure that takes around four hours. Most of the donations are through this method.
2. Bone Marrow Donation – this is what Katrina did (click here to see her video blog)
Bone marrow cells are collected from the back side of the pelvic bone (not the spine). Donors are given a general anaesthetic so no pain is experienced during the marrow extraction. This is a 1-2 hour medical procedure. Some donors experience some short term pain, bruising and stiffness after the procedure.
Within a week of donating, most donors are able to return to work or school and resume their usual activities. There are many reports of donors experiencing little or no pain and discomfort and going back to work the following day. This method of donation is less used, between 10-20% of the time.
Photo blog of Pete’s donor experience – harvesting peripheral blood stem cells
The aim was to harvest 4 million stem cells / litre for the transplant to work. In the event, Pete produced over 9 million / litre, which enabled some of his donation to be frozen should ‘top ups’ be required down the line.