‘Incredible feeling’: Stem-cell donor gets thank-you letter

A stem-cell donor from Edinburgh has received an anonymous thank-you letter from the patient whose life she saved.

Fran Holden, from Edinburgh, was browsing social media when she spotted a post about the stem cell registry DKMS and decided to sign up.

The 39-year-old was matched with a patient just two months after returning her swab kit and travelled to London to donate.

“It was such an incredible feeling, I kept imagining the patient getting the same news,” she said.

After receiving the heartwarming thank-you letter, Fran is now urging others to take a relatively simple step to potentially save a life.

She said: “I donated my stem cells by the peripheral method where they take the blood from one arm. It then goes into a machine which uses centrifugal force to separate out the cells from the blood and collect them, and then the blood goes back into your other arm.

“It takes around four hours in total and I honestly felt no pain at all. There is a courier waiting there to transport the cells to the patient, which is really exciting.”

Fran said she felt compelled to get involved after stumbling across the advert.

“I think every single one of us has either been personally affected by cancer or had a close friend or family member who’s had cancer – so it was a no-brainer,” she told STV News.

“It’s actually surprisingly rare that a patient will get a familial match and around 70% of patients are relying purely on the kindness of strangers.”

Neither the donor nor the patient’s identity is revealed during the process.

“I just knew that she was a female around the same age as me,” Fran said.

“I often wondered about her and how she was getting on until she sent me a letter recently to thank me for saving her life.

“I feel so truly honoured to be able to help.

“I can write back to her now, but we still are not allowed to reveal our names or locations or any personal details.”

Since her donation, Fran has joined the volunteer hub for DKMS Scotland to help raise awareness.

The group is made up of donors, patients and people who are on the registry and hope to become donors.

“We do donor drives at large companies all over Scotland and in recent times these have been done virtually,” she said.

“For those who are wondering about donating but are scared of the process, I would say that it’s mind over matter.

“Just try to think about how a small amount of discomfort to you could save somebody’s life.

“Imagine it was you that needed those cells to rebuild your entire immune system.”

Anyone who wishes to register can do so here: https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/scotlandhub.