Three generations of a lifesaving Pontypool family have defied the odds by each being selected to donate their life-saving bone marrow to three complete strangers thousands of miles away.
Allan (65), Chris (33) and Corey Taylor (25) were all selected from the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry as the only suitable matches in the world capable of saving patients from Africa, America and Europe respectively.
To mark World Bone Marrow Donor Day (Saturday 19 September), the Taylor family is calling on 17-30 year olds across Wales to volunteer their lifesaving bone marrow by joining the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
Chris Harvey, Head of the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry, said:
“Every day blood cancer patients around the world are desperately hoping to find a suitable bone marrow ‘match’. The requirements needed to match a patient with a bone marrow donor are very specific and this sadly means three in ten patients will never find the potentially lifesaving bone marrow donor they need.
“Last year 50,000 donations were made from around 40 million volunteers signed up internationally, which shows just how rare it is to be someone’s match.
“The likelihood of one family member being chosen as a match for a patient is extremely rare. For two members of the same family to be matched is almost unheard of and for three members of the same family to each have been chosen as the ideal matches for patients in three different continents is simply astonishing!
“The Taylors really are a family of lifesavers.”
Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue found at the centre of certain bones in your body where blood stem cells live. Blood stem cells produce all your essential blood cells, such as red blood cells to carry oxygen and white blood cells to fight infection. There are some diseases, such as some forms of leukaemia, which stop bone marrow working properly. For these patients, the best hope of recovery is to receive a bone marrow transplant.
Talking of his experience, Allan, the eldest of the Taylor family donors said: “A lot has changed since I donated back in 2005 but the constant has been the fantastic Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry staff who are always at hand throughout the process to look after you and to offer you reassurance and support.”
Chris, the middle generation of the three donors, who currently works for Torfaen Council, recounted his experience: “I was already a blood donor and decided one day to sign up to the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry. I am a big Superman fan so I’ve always dreamed of being a superhero. I can’t fly but I was able to save a life by giving my bone marrow – it’s as close as I’ll ever get to being a hero!
“My employer was absolutely fantastic and couldn’t have been more supportive. The procedure, which lasted about four hours, was absolutely fine. After my donation I stayed for about 30 minutes, had a cup of tea and then I went home. I rested over the weekend and was straight back to work on the Monday.
“I would say to anyone who hasn’t signed up, please just go and do it. You’ll feel fantastic about yourself if you get called up. Having just become a father myself, the thought I may have saved someone’s son or daughter’s life will stay with me for a lifetime. If I could, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
The youngest donor in family, Corey, added: “There’s a massive misconception and stigma out there around the bone marrow process. People seem to think they have to go through an operation type medical procedure which involves taking the bone marrow directly from your hip bone.
“The reality is quite different as 85% of donations are collected through a non-surgical procedure very similar to a blood donation, it just takes a little longer and there’s very little discomfort.”
The PBSC process collects stem cells directly using a specialist machine. The process involves drawing blood out of one arm, extracting the stem cells, before returning the remaining blood to your other arm. Donors typically return to normal activity a day or two following the donation.
Allan Taylor summed up their achievement by saying: “I’m so proud of myself and my family. It felt great knowing my son and my grandson were doing the same thing. There’s always someone less fortunate than you out there.
“I know people can talk about giving money but I think we have done something much more than that, we have potentially given three people the gift of life. You can’t put a price on that! I’ve done what I can. You can too.”
If you are aged 17-30, do something amazing, join the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Simply, book to give blood at: welshblood.org.uk or by calling the Welsh Blood Service on 0800 252 266.