Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Robert Gregory...making it better!

We have an unsung hero in our midst – Robert Gregory, who on the run-up to Christmas 2009 did something really remarkable while the rest of us shopped for presents – he saved someone’s life.

Robert registered with the National Blood Service as a bone marrow donor some time ago, when he was working for British Aerospace. “Like everyone else, I never really expected to be called upon,” he said. “But when I was, I just felt it was something I couldn’t walk away from.”
It’s not an easy process. Following an initial visit to the Leeds Blood Unit for assessment, Robert spent a day with the consultant in Newcastle, undergoing a full medical including ECG to assess his levels of fitness for the procedure and a
detailed counselling session to ensure he understood the implications of his decision.
Robert felt he was fortunate in that it was decided to harvest his donation via the bloodstream rather than the more painful injections into the bone to extract stem cells. But even this process is far from plain sailing. A drug called GCSF is administered over four days prior to the donation date used which forces the stem cells into the bloodstream, following which the donor is linked via a needle in both arms to a machine for 10 hours (five hours over two days).

“I felt like death during the initial GCSF injections with migraines and all the bones in my body in pain,” admitted Robert. “I’m a keen mountain biker, and I was as weak as a mouse for a while – but after a month, I was more or less back to normal.”

Robert may never meet the recipient of his bone marrow as this is not allowed for five years, but the system does allow him to send an anonymous letter and also allows the recipient to respond anonymously. If the recipient requires more bone marrow in the future, Robert will be requested to undertake the procedure again – but for the moment, he’s just happy it’s all over!

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