How long to save a life?

10 minutes says the Fermanagh man who has given the hope of life to one woman after he donated stem cells earlier this month.

James O’Shea, from Belleek, is in his first year of university in Liverpool but he took a break from his studies to travel to London for two days to donate stem cells.

The initial swab to get himself on the stem cell register took 10 minutes.

“It is so simple and people should be doing it,” James explained.

For many people with blood cancer or a blood disorder a successful stem cell transplant can be lifesaving.

“I think you need to imagine yourself in that position, waiting for a stem cell transplant. Put yourself in that predicament. You would want someone to give you that transplant, wouldn’t you? It is so important and yet so easy to do,” James said.

James decision to join the Stem Cell register came when his aunt, Mary Healy, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.

Mary’s family all joined the stem cell donor registry in April and while James was not a match for his aunt he received the call that he was a match for a lady in France.

“Normally you can wait for up to a few years on the registry, or you might never be called so I was surprised when I got the call but I was pleased too and delighted to be able to try and help someone,” James told The Impartial Reporter, before explaining that he was told a little about where his stem cells were going.

“I was told they were going to a lady in France in her 40s or 50s. That was all the detail I was given obviously because of patient confidentiality. But I do feel a connection to the lady,” he said.

That connection was amplified on the days that he gave the donation.

“I walked into the clinic to give the donation and I saw a number of patients who were really very sick. And it hit home to me even more. I got very emotional about it all. So many people need help and a transplant can save them. There really is no excuse if you are young fit and healthy.”

James’ experience has had a knock-on effect on his colleagues at university with a number of friends now putting themselves on the register.

“That is great to see and I try to encourage people to go on the register. It takes 10 minutes and one mouth swab. It is so so easy and you could save a life. I did not realise how important this was until I went on the register myself,” James said.

Over 600,000 people are registered with the stem cell register DKMS but it stresses that it needs many more people to come forward and that it needs the public’s help to save lives.

“Every 20 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer and some 2,000 people are looking for a potentially lifesaving blood stem cell donor each year,” the website states.

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“People should register. People need these transplants to have hope and have life,” James concluded.