RN officer supports bone marrow charity

Royal Navy personnel are being urged to sign up the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register and potentially save lives.

The charity has seen a drop in donations during the pandemic but one Royal Navy medic has told how he donated stem cells to the register.

Surgeon Lieutenant David Ochiltree was working in a Birmingham hospital when he received a call from the Anthony Nolan charity.

“Several years before, I had a quick mouth swab test and in doing so provided a saliva sample which added me to the bone marrow register,” he said.

“My registration matched someone, a stranger, undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. A few weeks later and after a couple small blood tests I found myself on a train to London to donate my stem cells.”

Blood cancer is a relatively common cancer and it can affect anyone at any age and at any time and, in some cases, can be treated by chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy destroys the cancerous cells but also destroys the patient’s bone marrow in the process. But this bone marrow can be replaced by donated stem cells.

I have been in contact with my recipient and have had the opportunity to hear her story. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet being able to meet in person, but hope to do so when the current restrictions are lifted.

Surgeon Lieutenant David Ochiltree

Surgeon Lieutenant Ochiltree added: “I spent a morning watching the world go by from their Marylebone clinic in London as the stem cell bag slowly filled. Transport, accommodation and food are all arranged by the charity and I left only a few hours later.

“The bag then made its way to its recipient the next day. The identities of both recipient and donor remain anonymous for two years after the donation. All I knew at the time was the stem cells were going to female undergoing chemotherapy.

“After this two-year period, both you and your donor can choose to lift the anonymity. I have been in contact with my recipient and have had the opportunity to hear her story. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet being able to meet in person, but hope to do so when the current restrictions are lifted.”

Currently, people aged 16 to 30 years old can sign up, but once on the register you can donate up until you’re 61. If you are a match, you will need to get permission from your Commanding Officer before donating.

To join the register and potentially save a life visit anthonynolan.org/ . If you are eligible, a mouth swab test will be sent to you in the post, which you will then need to send back. From then on, you’ll be on the register. 

The NHS also has further information about the Bone Marrow British Registry, please visit: nhsbt.nhs.uk/british-bone-marrow-registry/