Last week, I wrote about Emily. Emily needs to find a stem cell donor, or else she is going to die from cancer.
My first step to help her… is to get registered as a stem cell donor, and to blog about the process to show everyone how easy and worthwhile it is.
The process of registering is different in every country. In the US, it is just a little mouth swab. Other countries require a blood donation too. So it is worth finding out the requirements in your country first.
In Australia, you are required to donate blood, in order to become REGISTERED. You don’t actually donate your stem cells right there and then!
So here we go……..
Eeek I have never ever donated blood before!
The reason is because, when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I struggled with low iron and a low blood count. During my 3 pregnancies, I also had a very low blood count. So I just assumed that this low-ness was “normal for me” and that I should just avoid donating.
Not to mention, I can’t stand anything “blood related”. I don’t like the sight of blood. The smell of blood. I feel faint when I see too much blood. I get wobbly in my tummy when I see it oozing out of skin. I close my eyes during gory movies and medical procedures on tv. And I hate needles! I’m a real wimp.
But seriously, it’s such a lame excuse for me. I’ve been through much tougher things in life. I’m very fit and healthy at the moment. And I should be completely able to give blood.
When I gave birth to my first child, I lost a LOT of blood. I had to be in intensive care and I was given something like 2L of blood to help me recover. So in fact, I had been on the receiving end of someone’s donation. And my husband also received blood when he was being treated for his cancer. Obviously, it is pay back time :)
I made an appointment to donate blood and to put myself into the Australian Bone Marrow Donation Registry.
Everyone freaks out when you say the words “Bone Marrow”. The registry is called the Bone Marrow Registry, because the stem cells that are found floating around in your blood, actually grow in your bone marrow. Years ago, doctors had to take out bone marrow to get the stem cells, but now, they just sift them out of the blood stream.
When I arrived at the Australian Red Cross Blood Services, the little waiting room was PACKED full of people. Lots of men in business suits, there was a guy and girl couple, a few young woman, and lots of young guys too. I could hardly find a seat for myself. But, I did notice that I was the only Asian face there.
I was given a few forms to fill out. Eventually the people in the waiting room moved on and I took a quick snap, before it filled up with more people again. I thought the design choice of the waiting chairs was very cute.
I won’t lie. There was a lot of paper work. I had to fill out 3 forms.
But they were full of really simple questions like, “Do you have epilepsy? Have you ever suffered a stroke or a heart attack?? Are you taking any medication?”
This went on for a few pages. And I was ticking NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.
And by the end of it, I was thinking – Holy cow, I’m pretty lucky to be so healthy!
Which is what they want. Fit, young, healthy people. Hey, we are blessed!
And this is it. That extra form that might save the life of someone in need.
The form that puts me into the worldwide pool of stem cell donors. That one day… someone on the other side of the world, or someone next door, or even you, will be able to find your 1 in a 10,000 match.
You have to specially request this form, from the nurse at the front reception desk.
After submitting my paperwork, I was ushered to a little room. I talked to a nurse, who went through some pretty simple questions and answers.
For example, one question was “Have you EVER travelled outside Australia in the last 3 years? And which countries?” and I answered “Denmark, Singapore.”
She also took a skin prick, to test my haemoglobin. And then she took my blood pressure.
My results were perfect. I was a fine human specimen for donating blood.
I was ushered over to the donating room, which was nice and air-conditioned. A bit like a movie theatre.
I found a nice comfy seat, and the nurse gave me a snuggly, woolly blankie, which made my day.
The nurse set to work.
A teeny tiny prick of pain.
And I was all hooked up and giving blood.
Haha I totally look like a happy little granny here!
Lots of people asked me (after I donated) : What did it feel like?
My answer: Er, nothing! I just felt like I had some sticky tape on my arm. And I could feel the blood pressure wrap on my upper arm. I didn’t feel any “draining”, or “dizziness” or “coldness” or “light headed feelings”. I just chatted away to people nearby.
I have to admit, I was feeling a bit tense… because I was EXPECTING to feel dizzy or light headed. But I just didn’t. So actually, I felt happier as time went on, because it was going better than I expected.
This was my little pumping machine.
My blood packet sat in a little dish, that was rocked back and forth by the machine, like a happy little baby being soothed to sleep.
You might be able to make out the numbers on the machine.
Since I was 45kgs, I could only give 420mL. The amount collected so far was 358mL. 065 was the flow per minute. And 8:11 was the minutes that had passed.
Actually, 420mL was my blood donation, and they took 2 extra vials for testing and registering to be a stem cell donor. But I didn’t feel any difference.
And just like that, I was done! They wrapped me up and gave me a cup of water.
The whole thing took less than 10 minutes!
I sat there… feeling absolutely fine. I thought – That’s it??
I looked over at my 420ml packet and I was a bit shocked.
It looked like a lot of blood! I looked at my own body and thought, THAT came out of my petite little body? And I still feel fine?! Wow the human body is pretty amazing.
Then it hit me. I had this wave of euphoria. I felt so freaking awesome.
I felt like I did something really, really really GOOD. And I was so proud of myself.
The nurses were so kind and grateful. They kept encouraging me to take it easy, stay for a bit and rest. So I sat there for a few more minutes, just sipping my water and watching all the action in the donation room.
My husband came to pick me up… and we took a gentle stroll into the city.
We found a cute tea parlour in the city and sat down for a cup of tea and red velvet cake. It was just such a brilliant feeling.
That afternoon we picked up the kids from school. I did some light housework. I cooked dinner. I watered my flowers. And I still felt absolutely fine. In fact I was glowing :)
What next? What Can You Do?
To find Emily a match, thousands of ethnically Chinese people need to register to donate stem cells. Obviously, you can make a difference by registering yourself. But this needs to go viral in order to get THOUSANDS of possible donors.
I’ve set up a Facebook page called “I’ve got Chinese Stem Cells“!
The page is an online celebration, dedicated to all the ethnically Chinese people who have registered as stem cell donors.
If you have registered to be a donor, please post up your photo!!
(Photo of your face, your arm, your bandage, your donor card, the waiting room, the donation center sign, your cup of tea, your slice of cake that you ate after! Any picture from your adventure to show you were there.)
Please LIKE the page, upload your photos to the page, and tag “I’ve Got Chinese Stem Cells”
Every time someone posts here, it will add momentum, and spread the word, to help Emily, and others in need in the future.
Spread The Word!
Email, text, or call your best Chinese friends. Send them this blog post or the Facebook page link, and ask them to go with you to register. Get them to register too! And once you are registered, go to a really nice cafe together, and celebrate life and friendship.
And then think about how many ethnically Chinese people in your family, at work, at university, your sports club, social club, church group? Anyone of them could be Emily’s match, and if they are not, then someone they know could be.
Register Here :)