Stem Cells

Posted by Mark Wlikinson on 10 January 2019

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stem cells1'Foden's cornet player Adrian Beresford talks about his experiences in relation to giving a 'Stem Cell' swab following a campaign launched in conjunction with DKMS a global organisation dedicated to the fight against blood cancer.'

In February 2016, trombonist Stephen Sykes was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Having gone through some treatment including 7 rounds of chemotherapy, he was told that a blood stem cell donation from a matching donor was his best chance of survival. A campaign was launched in conjunction with DKMS a global organisation dedicated to the fight against blood cancer to try and find Stephen a stem cell donor by signing up as many people as possible to the British Bone Marrow Registry under the campaign “#SwabforSykes”

Band contests involve a lot of people spending a lot time hanging around waiting to play. A group of people decided that having a captive audience with time on their hands band contests provided the ideal opportunity to sign people up to the registry. They set up stalls across a number of the Area Championships around the country in spring 2017. Prior to joining Foden’s I played for Derwent Brass in the Midlands region, so at the Midlands Area Contest at Bedworth in 2017 I spent about a minute rolling 2 swabs around the inside of my cheeks. All very simple.

From here, my details were stored on the Bone Marrow Registry until June 2018, when I was contacted by DKMS to say that several of my tissue characteristics matched those of a patient in need of a stem cell transplant, and I was included on the short list of potential stem cell donors. An appointment was made at my local hospital to take several blood samples which were sent to DKMS so that tests could be carried out to see if I was a suitable donor.

In September I received news that the patient’s medical team would like to progress with the transplant using my stem cells and I would be contacted within the next month to arrange for further tests. These tests were carried out at the end of October at the London Clinic, a private hospital in the centre of London. During this visit, more blood tests were done, a chest x-ray and an ECG test were carried out in addition to a meeting with a doctor to discuss the process. A few days later, I received confirmation that the results were all good, and a date was set for the donation.

To stimulate the production of stem cells, I received injections of G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) on the 4 days prior to donation. This is a naturally occurring growth hormone that stimulates the production of stem cells in the blood. In my day job, I work in the Finance department of a large Healthcare company. By coincidence, my company has the contract with DKMS to supply the medication and nurses to carry out the injections, so I was able to get experience to get first-hand experience of the work my company does. The first 2 injections were done at work, and for the 2nd 2 which fell over the weekend, the nurse came to my home. The injections made me ache a little and was similar to having a bad cold. The aches had worn away within a couple of days of having the last injection.

The donation took place back at the London Clinic. The evening before I was put up in a hotel nearby, so that the collection could take place first thing in the morning. The method used to collect my stem cells is called peripheral blood stem cell collection. In this process, the blood was taken from my left arm, ran through a machine which separated out the stem cells, and then returned the blood to my right hand. – The nurse preferred to place the needle in my right hand rather than my arm to return the blood due to more pronounced veins in my hand which I agreed to after some reassurances that this wouldn’t have any after effects which would hamper my cornet playing! In hindsight I felt a bit foolish checking this, but at least the nurse humoured me!

After a small sharp scratch as the needles were put into my arm and hand the whole process was totally pain free. At one point after a couple of hours, my lips felt tingly a bit like they were well warmed up for playing the cornet! This was a sign that I needed calcium (it is a common side effect of the anti-coagulant that is used). The nurse provided some calcium tablets. Other than that, and the noise the machine made at times, it was easy to forget I was hooked up to the machine!

The machine collected stem cells for 4 hours. During this time, my left arm had to remain totally still, but I was free to move my right arm and was able to use my phone and tablet during the process. Lunch arrived after 3 hours which I just about managed to eat 1 handed!

After 4 hours, the nurse was pleased with the amount of stem cells collected, but warned that as the patient who was going to receive my stem cells was slightly heavier than me I may need to return to the hospital to repeat the process the following day so that they could collect more stem cells. However, after the stem cells had been analysed in the hospital laboratory I received a phone call to confirm that they were happy with my days’ work, and I wouldn’t need to return the next day.

I felt back to normal within the next couple of days. I was back at rehearsal the following night as the band prepared for Brass in Concert, and the gala concert with Matt Ford and Mike Lovatt at the Sage in Gateshead. Mike’s CD which he recorded with Foden’s “56 Degrees North” was launched at the Sage. Coincidently, Mike is donating some of the proceeds from the CD sales to the “Cancer Blows” charity whose aim is to raise both awareness and money to encourage research in to blood cancer.

A few days later DKMS were able to tell me that my stem cells had been flown over to the USA and had been transplanted into an American lady. DKMS will receive 3 updates from the patient’s doctor in the next 2 years which they will pass on to me. Fingers crossed that the stem cells do their work!

If you are aged between 18 and 55, in good health, and are interested in becoming a donor, you can find out more information at https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/register-now. Only between 4-5% of people who register will be matched with someone in the following 10 years, so it is DKMS’ objective to get enough people on the register so that there is matching donor for every blood cancer patient in need of a blood stem cell donation.

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Foden's band maintains a world class reputation for providing entertainment in the field of brass music with a tradition and unique style Mark Wilkinson