© Photo | ebm-papst

Small cells, big effect

Four donors in three years — this is the result of a type-matching campaign


Four donors in three years — this is the result of a type-matching campaign at ebm-papst in Mulfingen

In autumn 2007, three trainees found out that the son of a colleague was ill with leukaemia. They spontaneously organised a type-matching campaign for the Association of German Bone Marrow Donors (DKMS). 370 ebm-papst employees registered. Since then, the campaign has already identified four suitable bone marrow donors, who have helped sufferers with their donations. Thus, within three years the quota applying to all of Germany was achieved at ebm-papst in Mulfingen alone: Roughly one per cent of all those tested actually become donors. Three employees have already donated stem cells, the fourth is waiting to start.

For the two latest donors, Arne Haag and Martin Münz, the stem cell donation was a real challenge — but also a very good experience. Just the decision itself as to whether to become a donor or not was initially very hard for Arne Haag. For the extraction of stem cells may also involve certain health risks for the donor. “Until you realise that you really are about to be a donor, you don’t give it too much thought. Only then did I ask myself what it really means for me”, is how Haag describes his thoughts. “After all, the medical intervention is not totally without risk.”

Nevertheless, he decided to become a donor. For extraction, Haag chose the so-called peripheral stem cell collection method. Here, a medicine flushes the stem cells out of the bone marrow and concentrates them in the blood, from which they are filtered by a special system. The intervention is on an outpatient basis, the donor can work on the following day. However, the medicine taken is not without risk, it was originally developed for leukaemia patients. “You are taking a medicine against an illness that you yourself don’t have. This makes you feel a little uneasy. Also with regard to the side-effects, such as chills and back pains.” However, the desire to help others overcame all misgivings. The decision proved to be correct: In spring 2010, Haag successfully donated for a two-year-old Polish child.

The second current donor, Martin Münz, never had any doubts: “The thought that I might save a life gave me no alternative.” But also his donation involved certain challenges. he had no choice regarding the extraction of his stem cells: For him, only direct extraction from the pelvic crest, where the concentration of stem cells is very high, came into consideration. “This method is only used when the situation is already very critical with regard to the leukaemia patient. I didn’t dare ask any more details.”

The risk from the required general anaesthetic did not unduly worry Münz, as everything had all gone smoothly for his two previous operations under general anaesthetic. However, just before the appointment for the operation, he found out that his donation had to be delayed because the leukaemia patient was in a life-threatening condition. “I had really been hoping to be able to help the ill person, and now I was really worried.”

In January, ebm-papst in Landshut too is to start a major type-matching campaign for a sick colleague. But not only people in Landshut are needed. Everyone can be a potential life-saver by taking part in this or other campaigns and asking himself “What type are you?”
www.shg-leukaemie.de

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