Sanjay connected to the Apheresis machine donating stem cells.
For people who need a stem cell transplant, a 10/10 genetic match is ideal to limit the complications from the transplant. Most of the time this matched donor is not found within the family, it comes from volunteer stem cell donors from across the world. There is a higher probability that a matched donor is found from a similar ethnic background, but donors can truly come from anywhere!
Unfortunately, in our case, we have not found a donor after looking for 2 years. With comorbidities of CGD starting to effect Zoey and Misha, we made the difficult decision to make me, their father, the donor.
As their father, I'm only a half match for both girls. It is not ideal, but with no other option we are hoping for the best because we cannot afford to wait.
The whole donation process consists of four steps;
1. Joining the Registry
2. Pre-donation check-up
3. Pre-donation medication
4. Donation day
1. Joining the Registry
This by far is the easiest step! Simply go to Blood.ca to order a swab kit to your home. Once you receive the kit, it takes 10 minutes to register online and collect 4 cheek swab samples. Once done, mail your sample back to Canadian Blood Services in the pre-paid envelope.
2. Pre-donation Check-up
Ahead of the blood stem cell donation, the donor is required to complete a general health check-up and blood work. I was given an appointment at Princess Margaret Hospital in downtown Toronto. My day started with giving blood at their general lab. Next, I had a consultation with doctors to review my blood work and discuss my general health and what to expect to ahead of my donation. The team also provided all the supplies and prescription for the medication that I would be injecting to prepare my body for donation day.
Overall, I was there for a couple hours and it was all very straightforward.
3. Pre-donation Medication
To ensure I was able to donate as many stem cell as possible, I was asked to self-inject a medication called Neupogen. This medication increases the stem cell production in my body and releases them into my peripheral blood. All the supplies to self-inject were provided by the nursing staff at Princess Margaret and the medication itself was covered so there was no out-of-pocket expense for the donor. The medication is taken for 4 days leading up the donation day.
4. Donation Day
On the day of my donation, I arrived at Toronto General Hospital at 7AM. My day started by first giving blood, which is done so the apheresis team can evaluate the stem cell concentration and ensure that I am ready for donation. Next, I headed to the apheresis unit where I checked in and waited for my nurse to set up the machine. The total collection time all depends on how well I responded to the Neupogen injections, my overall size, and most importantly the size of the patient.
Two needles were inserted into my arms. Blood was drawn from my right arm and into the apheresis machine. White blood cells were collected by the machine and all other blood matter was returned back into my left arm. It was a painless procedure and because of Misha's size and my response to the medication, my total collection time was roughly 3 hours. I cannot stress how straightforward the whole process was. My nurse was very informative and explained everything that was happening in detail. By lunch I was ready to leave and visit Misha who was down the road at SickKids.
Read about my story on the Canadian Blood Services site
Supplies laid out on a table for Neupogen self-injection