Bone marrow donation - it should be called stem cell donation really (Part 12)



What would you say if I said stem cell donation differed little from giving blood?

You'd probably say something like, "Shut up Sudders, I'm tired of your online cancer whinging, and if I was a bone marrow donor someone would need to smash my spine."

I have a degree in Physiology, have spent five months in and out of a haematology ward, and I'm still staggered that I have only learnt what stem cell donation is really like.

There is a huge amount of confusion on the issue. I used to give blood but never thought about donating stem cells because I thought there was a slight risk of paralysis.

[ View my Video Diary on bone marrow donation here ]

The reality is very different.

In the UK, around 70% of all transplants are carried out using stem cells found in the regular blood stream.

If you wanted to get on one of the donor registers all you have to do is ask about it next time you give blood. Alternatively, you could get in touch with the Anthony Nolan Trust.

Specialists can tell from your blood whether you are a potential tissue match for someone or not. Your details are then entered onto one of the databases.

If you were a match for someone who needed a transplant, and you still wanted to help, you would be given a number of injections of a naturally occurring hormone called Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor (G-CSF), four days prior to the donation.

This stimulates your bone marrow to increase blood cell production. For example, when you are ill, GCSF stimulates the marrow to make more white blood cells to fight off infection.


The injections are safe and the only side effect I experienced when I was given some on the ward was a slight ache in my bones.

A donor is then brought into hospital and hooked up to a machine called a cell separator. A needle is put in one arm and the blood goes into the machine. The stem cells are separated by centrifugation and flow into a bag. The other parts of the blood are then returned back to the donor through a different needle.

The whole process takes around four hours.

Current research shows that these types of stem cells are the best for curing leukaemia.

However, for some conditions such as aplastic anaemia, stem cells from the bone marrow are more desirable.


To get these cells a bone marrow harvest is performed. This can require a two-night stay in hospital.

When I have a bone marrow sample I have to lie on my side in the foetal position. I am given a local anaesthetic and a needle is inserted into the bony bits at the back of my pelvis.

A donor is given a general anaesthetic and the same procedure is carried out but at multiple sites. There is no bone-breaking or spine jeopardising - that is not to say it wouldn't be a bit sore in the morning!

None of these procedures are anything to be taken lightly and do represent a big commitment. All I ask is that readers have a look at the relevant websites and consider it next time they give blood.

I've been lucky - but many patients are still unable to find donors. Please visit the links below to find out more


Hi Adrian

Good luck with the transplant, hope all goes well.

Great that you are trying to recruit more bone marrow donors, my husband registered when I was diagnosed. I never had a transplant as my brother was not a match, I just carried on with the chemo which, touch wood, has done the trick. Your blog brings back lots of memories to me (not pleasant ones though)and I can relate to it all. Keep your chin up and stay positive.

Lots of Luck and good wishes for the transplant.


Hi Adrian,

Thought you'd like to know that one more person will be added to the registry very soon. I just filled in the forms today.I'd been meaning to do it for ages, you finally got to me!

Wishing you all the best,


Sorry Ad I jumped the gun posting a comment on your last entry!

In case anyone didn't see my last comment, the Anthony Nolan Trust advise you NOT to register for more than one database. Generally, I think, because all databases are searched at the same time so you might come up more than once!

Because I work at a hospital, the last time I gave blood was in a National Blood Service suite and there were a number of people donating stem cells whilst I was there. They all looked very comfortable which cannot be said for me as I was in the process of fainting at the time!! Also, the national blood service can take cord stem cells, which basically means that when a woman give birth, the placenta is taken away and the stem cells are harvested. As not many people eat the placenta now a days, it seems worth while to me!

Love etc


Hi there Ady

Grandma phoned me last week with an update and I'm now regularly reading 'the BLOG'. You're just amazing. Just to let you know we'll all be rooting for you here when you get 'under transplant conditions'.

With our love Hilary, Rod & James

Hi Adrian

Hoping that all goes well with the transplant.

Your Blog makes compelling reading. Thank you for explaining the process so clearly. I am sure that the break and gourmet food has set you up.

This bone marrow will be so grateful to join a healthy body that it will be pleased to work overtime for you.

Lots of Love to you and Poppy



Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has commented on this blog. This is the last chance I will get to post anything myself before I go back into hospital.

Diana - thanks for letting me know about that. It's a really brilliant thing to do.

Tom - You are quite right. Donors should only sign up to one database. There are several around the world and the whole issue is much more complicated then I first thought. I should really have found out more about them and included them in the post. Never mind...

Although I'm not quite sure what's going to happen to me in the next four to five weeks, I still want to contribute to this site.

Hopefully there is more to come so keep having a look when you get chance.

Thanks again to everyone who has taken time to have a look at this blog and for all the comments.

They have really helped me during a pretty difficult time.

Best wishes to you all,


There is no happiness like that of being loved by your friends and family.

My husband was diagnosed with Birkett's Lymphoma in November 2006 and spent the next three months in the Haemotology Dept., City Hospital, Nottm. with very similar experiences to yours. We think that your blog is fantastic and raises awareness of these types of illnesses. We were totally unaware of the whole situation and ignorant of the procedures and treatments. We sincerely hope that your raising of the whole issue will bring forth the response that you are striving for and whole-heartedly agree with your sentiments regarding the happiness that being loved by your friends and family is the most precious of gifts. We are rooting for you.

Rest in peace Adrain.
And for family who loss this love one, be strong and keep Adrain's name in your heart.


I have been fotunate to have donated stem cells twice since 2005, both donations to the same person. I have received a letter indicating that I may again be a potential match for another person.
Can you donate 3 or more times?
Has anyone heard of someone who has done this?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Adrian Sudbury published on May 3, 2007 12:52 PM.

Transplant (Part 11) was the previous entry in this blog.

No going back (Part 13) is the next entry in this blog.

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