Hoping to save life of a stranger
A young woman, who first volunteered as a potential bone marrow donor eight years ago, is hoping to have helped save the life of a stranger.
As a university student, Mrs Jane Paling responded to a televised appeal to find would-be donors for a little girl with leukaemia who needed a bone marrow transplant.
“She was so cute. I would have done anything to help her,” Mrs Paling said.
Mrs Paling (26) then Jane Sutton, attended a temporary clinic in a church hall and signed up with the Anthony Nolan Trust, a charity that pairs donors and recipients.
Mrs Paling, an Advertiser and Nottinghamshire Living magazine features writer, of Lacey Green, Balderton, filled in a medical questionnaire and gave a blood sample but was not a match.
Her name and samples were added to the register of potential future donors, and it was not until August that Mrs Paling got the surprise call to say she was a potential match for a seriously-ill man.
Mrs Paling was asked to go to her GP for further tests.
“I discussed it with my husband, Ben. There really wasn’t any doubt in my mind so we agreed that I would go,” she said.
“I’m young, fit and healthy but by no means extraordinary. I thought that if I can do this, anyone can.
“Giving the chance of life means the world to the recipient and their family.”
She was told that if everyone aged 18 to 40 who was eligible to be on the bone marrow register signed up, then deaths from diseases such as leukaemia would be greatly reduced.
At the start of November, preparations began for the potentially life-saving transplant.
After health checks in London, a date was set for late November but this was postponed when the recipient’s condition worsened.
For a transplant to go ahead all of the recipient’s own bone marrow must be killed so it will not reject the new marrow.
It is not the blood that must be a match, but the tissues, platelets and cell break downs.
Bone marrow constitutes the immune system. Without it something as minor as the common cold can kill.
In mid-December, Mrs Paling was told the transplant would take place early in the New Year.
There are two methods. The first is the traditional method of an operation, where the marrow is surgically removed from the donor’s hips and inserted into the recipient.
The second — the one the recipient preferred — involved Mrs Paling receiving a four-day course of injections to make the bone marrow mass produce stem cells.
The stem cells were then filtered from the blood via a special machine and pumped into the donor.
The final injection was on the day before the transplant, which took place in London.
The Anthony Nolan Trust paid the travel and hotel expenses for Mr and Mrs Paling.
The injections left Mrs Paling feeling stiff, and, although she ached, they did not inhibit her life. A normal transplant requires400 stem cells and takes a day.
Mrs Paling said: “I was able to watch television, talk to Ben and read. We finished at 2pm. Afterwards, I felt very sleepy and my body felt quite exhausted. I slept for about two hours.
“The results showed we collected more than enough cells for a regular transplant. Unfortunately the recipient I was donating to needed twice that amount, so I went back the next day to see if we could harvest the remainder.”
Mrs Paling said the second day was more exhausting but this time she was wired up to the machine for only three hours and they exceeded their target.
“It is out of my control what happens to the recipient from now but at least I know there is nothing else I could have done to improve his chances,” she said.
Although the recipient’s identity is protected, Mrs Paling will be updated on his progress.
After two years, if he survives and with the agreement of both parties, the trust can put the two in touch.
“I hope that day will come. The man I’ve donated to is someone’s son, brother, husband or father,” Mrs Paling said.
“I hope that if I were ever in a similar position then someone would come forward to help me.”
Contact the Anthony Nolan Trust on 020 7284 1234 or visit www.anthonynolan.org.uk