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Stem cell donor

“I honestly couldn’t believe it. I had always hoped one day I might be told I was a match for someone who needed help”.

Smiley Team

2 weeks ago
Filling in a simple online form and spending two minutes rubbing a cotton swab inside your cheek does not sound like a lot to save a life.

But it’s exactly what Gurmail Sagoo, 41, from Birmingham did to join the blood stem cell donor register, run by charity DKMS.

Little did he realise that less than two years later he would be called upon to donate his blood stem cells to a stranger 5,000 miles away in Vancouver, Canada, and provide the lifesaving treatment she desperately needed.

And in August 2019 - four years after the successful transplant took place - Gurmail travelled across the world to meet Daljit Sanders, 33, the woman whose life he saved.

For Daljit, the meeting was understandably an emotional one. “I was excited, nervous, anxious, happy, joyful, to meet Gurmail,” she said. “He is part of me now. His blood, his DNA runs through my veins and meeting the person that saved my life is like meeting the guardian angel I never knew I had.”

Gurmail, a business analyst, decided to join the blood stem cell register in 2013 after seeing an urgent appeal on behalf of a three-year-old boy. He completed the form, rubbed the cotton swabs in his cheeks and sent them off to DKMS.

The call to help came in 2015 after he was matched to a patient in Vancouver who urgently needed a blood stem cell transplant after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

Gurmail said: “I honestly couldn’t believe it. I had always hoped one day I might be told I was a match for someone who needed help”.

He attended a series of appointments to check his suitability and then travelled to London to donate via peripheral blood stem cell collection – a four hour out-patient procedure, similar to giving blood. A courier then accompanied the cells to Canada where Daljt received them.

She said: “Ahead of receiving my blood stem cell transplant, I was terrified, but above all, relieved. Suddenly I had hope that I would have more time to be with the people I love most in this world.”

Doctors monitored Daljit closely after the operation and the medical team were delighted when her body accepted the cells, and procedure was declared a success.

The pair communicated anonymously via the DKMS offices. After two years they were allowed under UK law to be introduced and communicate with each other directly, and their lifelong friendship was cemented.

Daljit said: “Any small act of kindness can impact someone’s life in a positive way. Registering with DKMS to become a donor is one way to make a positive impact on the world.”

Anyone in good health and aged 17-55 can register as a blood stem cell donor. For more information see dkms.org.uk

By Jenna Sloan
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