Blood Stem Cell Donations in Times of Corona

April 08

"Just switch off your mind and let your heart decide”

The current Corona crisis presents DKMS with new challenges every day. For donors who are currently scheduled for blood stem cell donations, a level of uncertainty exists. The fear of overcrowded trains or generally having to go to a hospital is obvious. There are concerns that their immune system could be weakened after the donation and that they may become more vulnerable to the virus. However, this is not the case for all of them. Daniela Mähler  from Apolda in Germany did not have any doubts: Donating is a matter close to her heart.

When Daniela was contacted by DKMS Germany shortly before Christmas 2019, she was surprised. She registered many years ago and she did not expect to be called at all. She was on the shortlist for a patient and was first required to have blood drawn by her local general practitioner. Several weeks passed before Danila, a nurse,  received the news that she was the perfect match. 

"By then I was already really excited," Daniela said. 

After all preliminary examinations were completed, the date of donation was  arranged. Due to COVID-19, she was asked if it would be possible for the donation to take place even sooner. This was no problem for the mother of three and she organized everything to be able to travel to Dresden in time to donate her blood stem cells.

Daniela donating via peripheral blood stem cell donation.

Her husband Daniel accompanied her, but due to the stricter regulations currently in place, he was not allowed to go with her into the hospital. But Daniela did not mind, because after all, the only thing that mattered was to be able to donate enough cells and to get them to the patient as quickly as possible.

Since Daniela's mother also had blood cancer a few years ago, she could understand and relate to the situation that the patient and their family was in. Fortunately, her mother did not need a transplant and has now recovered.

Before the donation, Daniela made sure that she was drinking enough and getting a lot of vitamins. In addition to this, she was careful not to catch a cold or to get sick. The required amount of blood stem cells were collected after only two and a half hours. Afterwards, Daniela felt happy and proud that she had done it so well and especially so quickly.

"What I liked best was to be allowed to put a flag on the map of Germany at the collection centre to mark Apolda (her hometown)," she shared, referring to a tradition that some collection centres have introduced for donors. 

Postponing or cancelling the donation because of COVID-19 never crossed Daniela's mind. In fact, she was happy that, because of the donation, she was able to forget about the topic for at least a few hours.

Her family is proud of her and her husband Daniel, who is also registered, is even a little jealous as he has not been called to help and donate his stem cells yet. Daniela said to him: "Be happy, because if you're not needed, it means that your genetic twin is healthy."

Daniela finishing up her donation.

After the donation, Daniela was told that she had donated for a man in Austria. In Austria, even after two years, only anonymous contact is possible so Daniela and her recipient will only be able to write to each other. She feels that this is a shame, but in the end, it is irrelevant for the donation and her willingness to donate. Instead, she only hopes that the transplant will be a success and her recipient will once again develop a healthy immune system. After all, in the current situation he definitely belongs to a risk group.

"If you have the chance to save someone's life, even Corona won't stop you,” Daniela said. 

"A donation like this is a decision made from the heart. Something I would like to share with all donors who may be feeling anxious now is: Please don't be afraid! You will be well taken care of. I felt safe with the donation. In addition, I managed to escape the Corona madness for at least three hours. I was fine afterwards and my immune system is working perfectly. After donating, you feel great because you may have saved a life. Just switch off your mind and let your heart decide."

There couldn't be a better appeal than that, could there?