Until today I don’t think I had ever stopped to think about the reason for becoming a blood stem cell donor. When I was studying biotechnology the mobile blood collection service would come regularly to the faculty, and on one of the occasions when I was giving blood I saw a poster about blood stem cell donation, and I just put my name down straight away. I suppose it was just the fact of being able to help someone who had their back to the wall that was enough to convince me.
For the studies at the end of my course I went to Switzerland with an Erasmus grant to study under Professor Marc Ansari, from the pediatric onco-hematology group. Fortunately, my work in the laboratory was closely related to clinical practice, so I often had the opportunity to be with the patients and their families. Those six months convinced me that I wanted my professional career to be closely linked to the field of onco-hematology and that being a blood stem cell donor was a moral obligation. And here I am now, doing my doctoral thesis with Dr. Gaël Roué of the lymphoma translational research group at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute.
You can imagine the coincidence and surprise when I received a phone call from the Josep Carreras Foundation this June to say that I seemed to be compatible with a patient. This was the second time I had received such a call during the eight years that I had been registered as a donor, and I know how complicated it is to be compatible, but whether they call you once or a thousand times the sensation it causes is just as difficult to describe.
The very next day I was at the blood bank to confirm my compatibility, and within a week the wheels had been set in motion: I WAS THE SELECTED DONOR. No matter how much I try I don’t think I will ever be able to explain just how you feel at that moment. Over the course of the next days I couldn’t stop thinking of the happiness and hope the patient and all their family must be feeling.
I was given some medical tests to ensure that I was in good health, and they gave me some subcutaneous injections of hematopoietic growth factors that I had to administer to myself twice a day. There was no pain involved in that, but after the second day of treatment I noticed some pains in my arm and leg bones and hip, but nothing in comparison with what patients have to go through to prepare their bodies for the transplant. Five days and nine injections later the day arrived that I will never forget, 17 August. For about four hours I was connected to a blood cell separator, during which, thanks to the all the staff at the Hospital de Sant Pau blood bank, I needed for nothing. The following day, without any kind of side effect, I returned to the laboratory to continue combating these diseases.
My thanks go to all the staff at the Sant Pau and Can Ruti hospitals for their kindness throughout the whole process, and to the Josep Carreras Foundation for the marvellous work they do, and for their support and guidance throughout the entire process.
I’m afraid I will never know the patient who benefitted from my donation, but we will always be connected, which is a bit strange, isn’t it? I send you all my very best wishes and encouragement for this home straight. Being able to help you will, without doubt, always remain with me throughout my life, and I hope that “our story” inspires many other people to become donors.