Airevale United Reformed Churches
Rev’d Andrew Checkley has been involved in supporting the Anthony Nolan Trust for many years. In November 2017, he was shortlisted for a “Supporter’s Award”. Here is his story.
I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you a little more about what I have done with this charity.
My story starts over 20 years ago when I lived in Manchester. I went into my doctors one day and saw a leaflet advertising Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust and asking for people to sign up to be potential donors. I filled in the form and was sent a kit for a sample of blood to be taken. This sample gave Anthony Nolan an initial tissue type for each person to enable searches for potential donors. It is then a waiting game as you don’t know or when you might get the call. I had been on the register for about 6 months when the call came telling me that I was a potential match for someone. I sent off some more blood samples but was not a good enough match to actually go on to donate. About 12 months after this, I had another call from Anthony Nolan and was informed that I was a potential match. Again I sent off the samples but this time I was told that I was a good match and would I be willing to donate? At the time I was working at a school in Manchester who were very supportive and agreed that I could have the time off that I needed. Unfortunately just before I prepared to travel to the collection centre, I received another call saying that the procedure would have to be delayed.
It was rescheduled but again, it had to be postponed. The patient was in a very serious condition and if it the procedure couldn’t go ahead this time, it wouldn’t do so at all. I was given the go ahead and so headed off to Harley Street to The London Clinic for the procedure. The London Clinic is very posh, there were porters to take my bag up to the room, satellite TV in the room and the menu had a wine list with it. I wasn’t partaking of that as I was going for a general anaesthetic for the collection of my bone marrow. The procedure was done first thing the following morning and I don’t really remember much about it. I woke up after it back in the room. The cells had been collected from my lower back and it was a bit stiff and sore. After a couple of hours recovering, I was visited by a lady from Anthony Nolan who told me about what happens next and checking that everything had gone OK. In the early afternoon I was told that I could go home. A friend had travelled down from Manchester to accompany me back by train. We travelled back in style and went in first class. After a couple of days, I was fully recovered and there were no lasting effects. Anthony Nolan did a press release which was picked up by a local newspaper who ran an article on me and what I had done. I was also interviewed on the local radio.
A few years later, I had yet another call from Anthony Nolan who said that I was a possible match for another person who needed a transplant. Again, I was the best match and was heading down to London again. The procedure was a bit different this time as the cells were to be collected from my blood rather than the bone marrow. I had a course of injections for the three days prior to travelling down to London to boost the number of cells in my body. I went to the hospital for the final injection and then went to the hotel. Again, first thing in the morning I went back to the hospital to start the collection process. A needle was inserted into both arms and the blood is taken out. It is spun through a machine to extract the cells before the rest of the blood, minus the cells was put back via the needle in the other arm. The whole procedure took about 5 hours so to keep myself occupied, I watched several movies. Apart from some slight tingling in my finger due to my calcium levels dropping, I didn’t have any side effects. I did have trouble eating my sandwich as I couldn’t move my arms and had to ask one of the nurses to feed it to me. After a number of hours, the cells were counted and I was told that sufficient cells had been collected. Again I was visited by a lady from Anthony Nolan who checked that everything was OK. I headed back to Manchester and again had no ill effects from the procedure.
In terms of finding out what happened to the recipients, it all depends on the confidentiality laws of the country the cells are going to. The first recipient was in America which I only discovered when I tried to rearrange a collection of some blood samples. It had to be at the time stipulated as my samples would be heading off on Concord. So, one of my claims to fame is part of me has been on Concord. Unfortunately, the recipient did not recover but by giving my cells, I gave them the best chance that they had. The second recipient was a girl in Italy but I don’t have any further details about them.
In terms of my volunteering work with Anthony Nolan, that started when another collection
centre was opened in Sheffield. At the time I was in Chesterfield and an appeal
was made for donor visitors to go and visit the donors during or just after their
procedure. I went to visit donors to check that everything was OK with the procedure,
to tell them what happens next and to give them a goodie bag as a small token of
thanks. I undertook this work until I moved to Kippax and decided that it was a bit
far to travel down to Sheffield on a regular basis. One of the volunteer managers
suggested moving to a section of Anthony Nolan who go into schools to give presentations
on being a blood, organ and stem cell donor. I have undertaken this role for just
over two years and have travelled all the way up to Middlesbrough and down to Lincolnshire
giving talks and recruiting donors. The talks have not been without incident. There
have been several occasions where people have fainted or felt unwell and other occasions
when things have not quite gone to plan. On one occasion, I had been sent to Sheffield
Football Club to do a talk. When I got there, it was all shut up and no-
These occasions are rare and in the vast majority of cases, the talks go off without a hitch. Over the last couple of years, I have delivered over 40 talks to approximately 3,000 students. I have also assisted at recruitment events in schools and on military bases. The last one I was involved in signed up over 320 people to the stem cell register. The award I am a finalist for is in recognition of the work I have undertaken.
For more information on the Trust, please visit https://www.anthonynolan.org/
(The Award – Simon Dyson Volunteer of the Year -