Donating blood stem cells is, by law, voluntary and unpaid. You will, however, be reimbursed for reasonable expenses incurred should you be a match for a patient.
You can register as a potential blood stem cell donor either online and complete your swabs at home, or you register at a donor recruitment drive. Once we have received your swabs, we send them off to our specialist laboratory to be typed.
When the swabs are received by the lab, they are analysed to determine your Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) tissue characteristics. HLA tissue characteristics are much more complex than matching blood groups.
In 70% of cases, a matching donor is not found within the patient’s family. A search is then carried out to find an unrelated match.
When you are matched to a patient, you will go through the Confirmatory Typing (CT) process. You will be contacted by our medical team and they will guide you through each step. You will be requested to have a blood test at your local GP or hospital and will be asked to complete a medical questionnaire and consent form.
After the CT process, the patient’s clinical team will select the best possible donor from their shortlist. If you are the best match for the patient, you will then go through to the ‘Work-Up’ stage in preparation for your donation. You will have a further medical assessment and consultation at a specialist collection centre (where you will later donate your blood stem cells).
This method is used 90% of the time. You will receive injections of a stimulating factor called granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) for four days prior to your donation. This is simply to stimulate your blood stem cells in the bone marrow into the blood stream ready for collection. These injections are administered by a nurse at either your home or work. For the actual donation, a needle is placed into one arm and your blood is circulated through an apheresis machine, which acts as a filter to remove the blood stem cells. A second needle then returns the blood through your other arm. The whole process takes about approximately 4-6 hours and you can return to work within one or two days.
You will donate via peripheral blood stem cell (PBSA) collection process. You will undergo a series of G-CSF injections which will take place 4 days prior to the donation procedure. This will increase the production and release of the stem cells into your blood stream. These injections are administered by a nurse at either your home or work. For the actual donation, a needle is placed into one arm and your blood is circulated through an apheresis machine, which acts as a filter to remove the blood stem cells. A second needle then returns the blood through your other arm. The whole process takes about approximately 4-6 hours and you can return to work within one or two days.
Donors will in due course be sent confirmation of their registration on The Sunflower Fund’s stem cell registry. You will remain on the registry until the age of 60 years or until you are a match for a patient.
Throughout the process, the team at The Sunflower Fund partnered by DKMS will be there to guide you and make sure you are well informed and answer any questions you have. The team will also follow up with you regularly after your donation and provide ongoing medical support and information.
Donors will only be called back to donate stem cells if they are ever a perfect match for a patient. The odds of being a match are about 1: 100 000 which is why we need as many donors as possible.
If you are a match for a patient
You will be contacted to confirm that you are still willing to donate stem cells. If you agree, you will have to undergo a medical examination to ensure you are still in good health to donate. Five days before the donation you will be given hormone injections to stimulate the production of stem cells in your bone marrow. You will then go into hospital for a relatively painless procedure that takes 4-6 hours.