East Lothian man sacrifices his honeymoon to help save the life of a complete stranger

Two newlyweds gave up their eagerly anticipated tour of the Highlands in order to donate lifesaving stem cells to unknown cancer patient

By Shona Elliott
Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 8:45 am
East Lothian man sacrifices his honeymoon to help save the life of a complete stranger
East Lothian man sacrifices his honeymoon to help save the life of a complete stranger

After his father was diagnosed with liver cancer Gareth Glynn registered as a blood stem cell donor in 2016 to help others with similar conditions.

The 32-year-old from New Winton in East Lothian said he did not think much about this decision until two years later.

In early 2018 while preparing to embark on a honeymoon tour through the Highlands with his wife Heather Glynn, Mr Glynn received a call informing him that he was a lifesaving match for an unknown patient.

Gareth Glynn donating stem cells in hospital said he is 'pleased' to be able to help cancer patients have longer with their family.

Without hesitation, the newlyweds cancelled their trip and travelled to the collection centre to save the life of a total stranger.

Mr Glynn said: “It’s not every day you get to save another person’s life, and the Scottish coast wasn’t going anywhere.”

After arriving in the hospital the selfless man underwent the four-hour procedure called peripheral blood stem cell donation which non-surgically extracts stem cells from his blood.

To extract the life-saving stem cells a needle is put into each arm and blood is drawn out of one arm and fed into a cell-separating machine.

Inside the machine, the patient’s stem cells are filtered out and the red blood cells are then put back into the patient’s bloodstream through a second needle.

Mr Glynn said: “The process to donate was almost as simple as it was to register. I donated through a peripheral blood stem cell donation which was a bit like giving blood.”

The keen rugby player added that he was proud to have been able to help someone have more time with their family.

He said: “The experience was incredibly rewarding and made me feel very proud knowing I had given a family more time with their loved one.”

Having helped save a perfect stranger's life, the compassionate man is marking Blood Cancer Awareness Month, running throughout September 2020, to encourage others to donate.

My Glynn said: “With everything going on in the world at the moment, registering with DKMS is a small way you can have control over putting some positivity back out there.”

Since the pandemic hit blood cancer charity DKMS has reported a ‘huge decrease’ in registrations to become lifesaving donors which created an urgent need for new sign-ups to help meet the demand.

Blood cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK and it is estimated that every 20 minutes someone in Britain is diagnosed with the condition.

However, less than 1 per cent of people in Scotland have registered to become a blood stem cell donor during the pandemic and the charity has asked for more people to consider donating to honour Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

The charity believes this lack of participation in donations is caused by widespread confusion and uncertainty about what blood stem cell donation is.

Jonathan Pearce, Chief Executive of DKMS UK, said: “Knowing that the reason a lot of people haven’t registered as a blood stem cell donor is due to misunderstanding is in some way positive. It means this Blood Cancer Awareness Month we have an opportunity to drive lifesaving action by simply shouting about how straightforward, yet vital the blood stem cell donation process is.”

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