So, today was the day that I went to find out whether I was fit enough to donate bone marrow and understand what exactly would be involved.
I was due to catch the 10:20am train from Dorchester West station to Waterloo. I got a lift into Dorchester with Adrienne, at 8:30 and then had an epiphany - that's not a new type of coffee at Costa (I had my usual Cappuccino with a Blueberry Muffin). My train left Dorchester West at 10:20 and it's first stop was Dorchester South at 10:33. I realised that I could just walk to Dorchester South and get on the train there!
Honestly, I don't wear these glasses for nothing you know.
I wear them for seeing.
So there I was, all coffee'd up with well over an hour to spare. I took a stroll around the shops in Dorchester high street, including a very influential visit to WH Smiths where the store manager somehow persuaded me to buy a £3 book called 'Sanctus' and a lifetime subscription to Grazia magazine.
Apart from that, I just mooched around (Mooch around! Mooch around! Mooch up Mooch up and get down!)
After I'd had enough of mooching, I bimbled (bimbling is faster than mooching, but slower than sauntering) to Dorchester South station. I still had a good hour to wait. I started reading my book, but didn't find it as gripping as the store manager had promised. To be honest, I was a little annoyed and would have happily taken the book back to the store manager and made sure it infiltrated his inner sanctum - if I could have been bothered. Luckily for him (and his secret circle), apathy was rife.
It was a lovely day - the sky was blue and only occasional clouds meandered across it. As the time for my train approached, I moved out of the waiting room and onto the platform, where a few other people were starting to appear. Amongst them were two elderly ladies, with a very large suitcase. Immediately I switched into helpful mode and approached them, offering to help them on with their luggage.
They gratefully accepted and I was once again looked upon with awe and admiration. I made a few jokes, and little quips (which is what I do) and we all got on fine. Only one of the ladies was boarding the train, and was getting off a few stops down in Bournemouth. I offered to help her off the train as well, which the poor helpless love (I do sometimes wonder if I impose my chivalry somewhat on people) accepted - whilst googling the address of that Assisted Death place in Switzerland in an attempt to escape my looming helpfulness.
Bournemouth Station arrived and we said goodbye - me with a sense of good deed doing, and her with a sense of relief and far too much knowledge about my Bone Marrow donation, my Sign Language, my Girlfriends children, and a myriad of other subjects that I had assaulted her with in our brief conversation on the train.
My train journey continued, and by the time I got to London Waterloo I had yet again worn my "Captain Helpful" outfit, by giving up my seat for a mother and child, AND helping another couple off the train with their luggage.
I tell you what, if I don't get some sort of statue, I'll be quite put out.
Now, I don't know how many people pass through London Waterloo (or any other of the mainline London stations) on a daily basis, but it is a lot. Get there at any random time of day and there will be a sea of people going here and there. Millions of individuals going about their journeys every year.
So the chances of meeting someone you know? Slim, right? The chances of meeting a member of your extended family? So slim that it makes slim look fat.
Well suck the bone marrow out of me and stick it in someone else, if I didn't just happen to cross paths with my second cousin, miss Marianne Lagrue!
She (in all her awesomeness) was en route to her University to continue being incredibly intelligent and clever as she always is. We paused briefly to exchange current life info, a few high-fives and cool knuckle touches, and a hug before continuing on our seperate journeys. That brief, never expected meeting made this already good day a great day.
Marianne (she has a RSS feed to this Blog - why don't you get one too?) - Tuesday 28th May, I'll be in the London Clinic, 22 Devonshire Place, W16 6BW recovering from my donation. Feel free to stop by and say hi.
From Waterloo I took the Jubilee line - which ironically is full of the least jubilant passengers I've ever encountered - to Baker Street, the closest station to my destination. After negotiating my way past Madame Tussaud's where hordes of tourists are drawn every day (the dummies), I found myself at The London Clinic.
The best way I can describe the London Clinic is as a posh hotel that skimped on the furniture. Big reception desks, fancy artwork on the walls, seating that would be called "Knuppsborg" in an Ikea catalogue.
I signed in, filled out a form and was sent up to the 3rd floor, where I handed in the form and took a Knuppsborg while I waited to be seen.
Shortly a nurse came and called me and took me round the corner (that's not an innuendo). She asked if I'd had my height and weight measurement recording done. I said no, so she gave me one (that is). She then asked me to provide a urine sample. She showed me to a bathroom and left me to it. Now, I am used to providing urine samples in a test tube sized container, but the container provided was more akin to a Britta water filter. And as the nurse had not specified how much she wanted, I played it safe and gave her all of it. I left the sample in the bathroom and returned to my cubicle.
Not long after, the consultant came and took my to his office for the consultation. He was a really nice man, with a good sense of humour and we had an instant rapport. He explained the procedure to me, and the risks involved. The crux of what he told me was this:
The person I will be helping is a child. He knows no more than that. I don't need or want to know any more. The chances of my donation being a success and it helping the patient are between an average of 50% up to a maximum of 70-80%. If I don't donate, the recipients chances are 0%.
Bone Marrow is similar to Blood. In 20ml there are 22,000,000,000 (22 thousand million) cells. Of these, 1 in every 100 is a stem cell - they type needed. On average a donation of 1 litre of Bone Marrow is needed to provide enough stem cells.
They will be taking the Bone Marrow from the bone - at the back of my pelvis. There is a 1 in 250,000 chance of a sick person having anaesthesia developing complications and potentially dying. The risks for a healthy person like me are even less - 1 in a million.
Nonetheless less I stated for the record that should something go wrong and I die during the procedure, I would still want them to take and use my Bone Marrow.
I'm not saying I'm in favour of buying the farm whilst having the procedure but I don't see why the recipient should suffer if I throw a seven (other death analagies are available).
After my consultation, I went and had a Cappucino and a biscuit while another nurse took blood samples. In chatting to her, I found that on average they have four people a day either coming for medicals prior to donating or actually donating. Assuming they close at the weekend, that's 1000 people a year who do this great thing. That is quite a lot, but not when you consider 60+ million people live in this country.
The consultant told me that some people who need a transplant never actually ever find a match for them because their specific needs are so mixed up.
That is an awful thing.
Blood taken, and Cappucino drunk, I was off to have an ECG. I had to cross the street for this, and was met by a giant of a man with Turkish origins. He asked me to remove my top and lay on the couch, which I did.
(He could have asked me to wear a blonde wig and sing 'on the good ship lollipop' and I wouldn't have argued) he then attached several pads to my chest, arm and legs before pulling out what looked like jump leads for a F-14 fighter plane. He attached the leads and checked my heart - which I'm surprised wasn't racing as I was a little nervous about being in this basement room half naked with a giant Turkish man.
Fortunately I had nothing to worry about and I left with everything intact.
My next stop was Radiology, for a chest X-Ray. I had to descend another floor down into the bowels of the building and found myself in a reception / waiting room. A blonde haired Essex girl was behind the counter who despite her best efforts couldn't quite hide her Romford twang.
Well, that's short skirts for you.
I had to wait an age to be finally seen, and I noticed a lot of wealthy foreign people passing through. I don't know what the cost of this privately would all be, but one woman approached the counter and after seemingly only asking for directions to the toilet, was charged £118!
Eventually I was called, then X-rayed and released. I made my way back to London Waterloo and am now on the train home. I'm sat at a table with two other blokes who also wear glasses. I did tell them that we have to make this table 'Glasses Only' - refuse the last remaining seat to anyone NOT wearing glasses, but they seemed to not understand the humour. Some people......
So, I've been checked out, and I have the all clear to donate.
Tuesday 28th May, I'm going to save a life.