Abrar donated stem cells to someone he didn't know

Donating stem cells was such a straightforward process and it was very rewarding to help in this way.

Abrar Ali, 23, donated his stem cells in August 2019 after being identified as the best match for someone he had never met.

Abrar shares his story:

“I donated blood for the first time through an initiative organised by my local mosque. It was in Tooting, South London and arranged by the Imam Hussain Blood Donation Society.

I went along to support as I knew giving blood was a good thing to do and staff at the session spoke to me about potentially donating a sample for the British Bone Marrow Register at the same time. I was given a leaflet to look through but I thought ‘why not’- it was another potential way of helping others.

“All went well with my first donation and life carried on as normal, I was living in London, working in Finance on a placement year from university.

I had completely forgot about joining the bone marrow register until I received a call a few months later. It was explained to me that I was a potential match for someone waiting for a transplant and I was asked if I would be happy to proceed with further tests.

The staff explained everything to me and I spoke to my family about it. They were a bit hesitant at first but as we researched and read the information online, they were happy for me to go ahead.

“I had further tests at The London Clinic to check I was the best possible match but also to check that I was well enough to donate too. Within a few weeks it was confirmed I was the best match and dates were set for the donation process.

I was given a week’s special leave from work and on the first four days a nurse came to my house to inject me with a drug that increases the number of stem cells in my blood. On the fifth day I went back to The London Clinic to complete the donation.

“On the day of donation, I was a bit scared and nervous and just wanted everything to go to plan. My Mum came with me too to keep me company.

It was a straightforward process, I had two needles (one in each arm) and was attached to a cell-separator machine that collected the stem cells from my blood. The needles were a bit bigger than the one used to give blood but I sat there and watched Netflix while giving my donation and had no problems whatsoever.

“The staff were able to collect everything they needed in the one donation and I was sent home to recover.

Within a few days I returned to work and colleagues there were supportive, they even took me for a meal as they were proud of what I had done.

Abrar is now back at university in Brighton and thinks about the patient he donated to. He adds “I know it has to remain anonymous for a certain time, but I hope the patient is doing well and would love to hear from them one day.”