‘I could be giving someone their life back. That was it - I had to do it’

Doug smiling in his hospital bed
Think twice: Doug wants to encourage young people from minority ethnic backgrounds to donate

Matching stem-cell donors like Doug Mbang is crucial to the success of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan

Doug Mbang had completely forgotten he had registered with Anthony Nolan to donate his stem cells until nearly seven years later, when he got an email saying he could be a potential match. “It sounds a bit strange but I was at freshers’ week for my degree in biomed,” says the 27-year-old, who is now in first-year medicine at Nottingham. “You get all those stalls trying to entice you with freebies and I liked the look of the Anthony Nolan pens (I’m very shallow!) – and when my friend signed up I did too, went off with my pen and forgot all about it.”

When the email came through in 2018, Doug was very busy writing his dissertation, working and studying, and he wasn’t sure if he had the time to get involved. “My girlfriend was really proud at the thought of me doing it and that made me think again,” he says. “She said I could be giving someone their life back, and that was it – I had to do it.”

The procedure was very straightforward, beginning with bloods being taken. Two days later, Doug was told he was a match and asked if he would go ahead with it. Once he’d confirmed, he was invited to go for a series of tests in a clinic in London to confirm he was physically fit and had no infections. 

In the week leading up to the transplant, Doug received four injections of a growth factor, known as G-CSF, which were given by a nurse who came to him, thus minimising any disruption to his schedule. G-CSF encourages stem cells to be released from the bone marrow into the blood, thus maximising the donation.

“The actual donation was so straightforward,” he says. “I basically had a needle in each arm, with the blood coming out of one into a machine which retained the stem cells needed, and then put the rest back in through the other needle. It took four hours in total and I was so glad I did it.”

Any of us could need a transplant and we can all support Anthony Nolan, both by going on the register and by helping fund the work

Like everyone else involved with Anthony Nolan, Doug’s main concern was the patient. “Then last summer I got a letter saying the recipient was alive and doing well, and that felt so good to know. I’ve stayed on the register as I can donate twice, and I would love to encourage other people to sign up – especially young people from minority ethnic backgrounds. I found out that if the patient who needs a match is from a Northern European background, they have around a 69% chance of finding one. But if they’re from a minority ethnic background, that drops to about 20%.

“Cancer can affect anybody at any point in their life, and helping give someone the best chance of survival is the only reason you need to do it. We need more people from a range of backgrounds on the register to save more lives. Funding is essential to help recruitment. 

Research is vital: studies have shown that the younger the donor the more likely the patient is to survive

“From my own experience, Anthony Nolan was so supportive. It does feel amazing to know you’ve helped save someone’s life, but I also felt I was really looked after and got a personal MOT.  No one took what I was doing for granted and it was made as easy as possible for me. Any of us could need a transplant and we can all support Anthony Nolan, both by going on the register if you are under 31 and by helping fund the work. Anthony Nolan thinks of every tiny detail to make it easier to donate, like the nurse coming to visit me for my injections, but everything costs money. Everything works towards transforming someone’s life and I’m so glad I signed up, even if I did get a surprise all those years later when I was told I was a match.”

Without your support, there is no cure

This article is an advertisement feature for Anthony Nolan.

Every day, Anthony Nolan matches incredible individuals willing to donate their stem cells or bone marrow to people with blood cancer and blood disorders who desperately need lifesaving transplants. 

You can help save more lives today. Every financial donation helps give more people with blood cancer a second chance of life. Without your support, there is no cure.

If you'd like to make your donation over the phone, please call 020 7424 6626. Our phone lines are open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

Visit anthonynolan.org/savelives and help save lives today.

As part of our commitment to supporting Anthony Nolan, Telegraph Spark will make a £10,000 donation when we hit 10,000 shares of this film. Watch the full video below.­