Gareth Glynn Supports World Blood Cancer Day with Stem Cell Donation
Gareth Glynn, one of Dalkeith’s Ink Technicians has done something amazing. Gareth was successfully matched and donated stem cells to a patient suffering with blood cancer. This is very unique, because there is only a small chance that you would be an exact match to someone requiring treatment and he was!
Before being qualified, Gareth travelled to and from London for tests, before getting the go ahead that he was a match. The timeframe was very tight for Gareth, he was just recently married and was able to enjoy a few days of his honeymoon before receiving the relevant injections 4 times a day on the run up to the donation which was shortly after his big day!
Gareth recently sat down with Heather Fanning, PR & Communications Manager at DKMS, to discuss his experience during this process. Their interview and additional DKMS details are below.
Gareth Glynn, 30, from East Lothian, Scotland, registered with DKMS in May 2016 and in March this year donated his blood stem cells through PBSC donation to help give someone a second chance at life.
- When did you first hear about DKMS? What made you sign up to become a potential lifesaver?
I first heard about DKMS as my dad is now a cancer. He thought he had man flu and went to the Doctors and they found he had four tumours on his liver.
I tried to help my dad by signing up to the organ donor register to help him and from there I looked into every other possibility where I could help people. I came across Anthony Nolan but I was too old (as they have an age limit) so I registered online with DKMS.
Thankfully it’s been eight months pre-op and my dad is doing okay. He needed to receive a full liver transplant. After a lot of testing and nail biting moments my dad received his transplant.
My family set up a charity walk years before and now the organisation has just been classified as a foundation. Last year despite everything going on my dad still took part in the charity walk and so far we have raised £260K. For more information, visit: WalksWithScottFoundation.
- How and when did you register to become a blood stem cell donor?
I signed up online and I received my home swab kit. It has been just under 2 years that I have been registered.
- Were you aware of blood cancer before? Were you aware of blood stem cell donations?
I was obviously aware of cancer but not so much blood cancer. I wasn’t aware how easy it was to help save someone – it was almost like giving blood. I don’t think there is a lot out there to show people that, as people tend to think it’s all about operations and transplants.
I used to play rugby for Ross High RFC and I knew of one of the rugby players, Stuart Ross, that went on to donate last year or the year before. So two people from the same rugby club went on to save two people’s lives. His story appeared in the paper and he went down to London to donate.
- Has anyone you know/known been affected by blood cancer?
A family friend’s son, Aaron was diagnosed with blood cancer but he managed to use his own stem cells. He managed to survive and is still here today. He has been cancer free for 8 years.
I keep in contact with Aaron’s dad Colin and he was really proud that I had donated after what Aaron had gone through.
- How long where you on the register before you got a call to say you were a match?
It was a very short time – it wasn’t that long.
- How did you feel when you received that call?
At the time I got the call it was to say it that I was a potential match, I never really fully took it on board. I went to speak to my mum about it because she is a nurse in the stroke unit, at the Royal Western Hospital, so she understands quite a lot.
When I finally got told I was a match that’s when the super hero feeling started to kick in a little bit. It was a really proud moment. I received a letter to say that I was a 100% chance of a match – so for me that’s what sealed the deal.
- How long was it between receiving the important call and coming to the clinic to donate?
It wasn’t long at all. I received a phone call and then went to the London clinic for the health assessment.
They were keen to get the donation done as soon as possible as the person really needed my help, so I had to work around my wedding (March 17, 2018) in order for me to start the injections.
I’ve been with my partner, Heather, 25, for six years and she came with me on the day I donated.
- How do you feel ahead of your donation?
I was nervous – it was a strange feeling knowing that you could potentially save someone’s life. It was a rare strange feeling and it’s hard to explain. I was also very excited to know the donation was a go ahead.
I never told anyone that I was doing this, as I wanted to make sure everything was going through and once I got told I was definitely donating – that’s when I started to tell people.
- What do your friends / family think about you being a match for someone in need?
There were some people who couldn’t believe how easy the donation part was and how easy it was to potentially save someone’s life. Some people went on to register off the back of it just because they didn’t know how easy it was.
Some of them were really proud. My nickname is Junior as I’m the spitting image of my dad, and now they are calling me ‘super’ Junior – it’s a good name!
- What would you say to others that aren’t on the DKMS register?
It only takes a few minutes to start the sign up process online – it’s really straightforward – you complete the online registration form, receive the swabs in the post, swab and then send them back in a pre-paid envelope. To know that you could save someone’s life… you can’t ask for much more than that.
- Do you know anything about your patient?
A week following the donation they told me in one of the check-up calls that I had donated to a 66 year old female from Germany.
- If you had the chance to meet your donor what would you say to them?
Make the most of this second chance in life, enjoy every minute and dance like nobody’s watching
- How do you feel now you have done the donation?
I feel better knowing that the donation actually happened and that the person received the donation. I’m looking forward to when I can make contact with them to to see how they are doing. I would be really keen to write a letter to them.
I’m not looking for anything special – I just wanted to do this as I have a big heart like the rest of my family.
- Why do you think it’s important for people to join the register?
I would say that the more people who sign up, the more chances people have to beat blood cancer. Because cancer is a horrible thing. I’ve lost many people through cancer.
- Can you sum up your experience of being a blood stem cell donor in three words?
Proud – Rewarding – Heart-warming
- Would you do it again?
Yes – not right away. I was done in and exhausted from the injections and traveling down to London. Now it’s a couple of weeks on from the original donation I would definitely do it all again.
About DKMS World Blood Cancer Day
DKMS World Blood Cancer Day is a global awareness day dedicated to the fight against blood cancer, held annually on May 28. Established by DKMS in 2014, the day is open to donors, patients, friends, families, communities, companies, organizations and anyone who wishes to support. The call to action is ‘Make your mark’ and the official symbol is the red ‘&’, which symbolizes solidarity with those affected by blood cancer worldwide.
Find out more: www.worldbloodcancerday.org
- DKMS is dedicated to the fight against blood cancer through recruiting stem cell donors and providing second chances at life.
- DKMS is a blood cancer charity that launched in the UK in 2013.
- DKMS is a global not for profit organisation that started in Germany in 1991 around one family’s search for a donor. Today DKMS operates in Germany, USA, Poland and the UK.
- DKMS is the largest international donor centre.
- Every day, an average of almost 200 potential blood stem cell donors register with DKMS UK.
- To date, DKMS has registered 8 million potential blood stem cell donors worldwide, including over 350,000 people in the UK.
- 23% of all potential blood stem cell donors in the UK are registered with DKMS.
- So far, over 400 second chances at life have been provided by DKMS UK.
How you can help?
- Anyone in the UK aged between 17 and 55 and in general good health can register with DKMS.
- Please visit dkms.org.uk to register for your home swab kit.
It costs DKMS £40 to register a new potential blood stem cell donor in the UK. As a charity, DKMS relies on contributions from the public to help cover these costs – please donate online at www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/deletebloodcancer/dkms-dr