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Four Different Ways Women Can Give the Gift of Life

Posted Jul 18 2011 2:57pm

I wnted to re-post this because there still is controversial news regarding embryo and sperm donations (not to mention egg donation) I think it's important to focus on other ways women can give the gift of life...(although egg donation is mentioned in this article) I have never been an egg donor, becoming involved in ART in my mid 30's, however, I am on the International Bone Marrow Donor list, give blood regularly, had cord blood saved and, of course, been a Gestational Carrier twice. ( I wouldn't consider the 7 Pounds route that Will Smith took in that role!) Needless to say, these stories are based in the UK but the US offers the same opportunities. Just ask your Dr. for guidance.

Exclusive: By Alison Palmer 21/07/2009

These women all gave a body part to improve someone else’s life. Here they explain why they were so selfless

Every drop counts

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Danielle Holmes, 32 lives with husband Richard in Muckamore, Belfast, with their children Kaya, three, and five-week-old Cayden. Danielle is a manager of a logistics company and Richard is a head chef.

“As my darling son, Riley, born 14 weeks early, lay in an incubator, hooked up to endless wires and tubes I felt so helpless. All I could do was feed his tiny 1lb 11oz body with my expressed breast milk.

Despite bleeds on the brain, collapsed lungs and other complications, he limped on. But four weeks in, with all the stress and heartache, my milk dried up. I was devastated. Doctors said formula milk would be too heavy, but there was a milk bank, breast milk donated by other mothers we could use.

Before I had Riley, I was repulsed by the thought but when you are in the situation we were in, knowing the best thing your very poorly child can have is breast milk, you’re eternally grateful for another mum’s donation. I believe the donated milk gave me another five weeks with Riley before he died after surgery for a bowel infection.

So two years later, when I gave birth to Kaya, I was determined to give something back. I contacted the milk bank at Fermanagh and they sent me special bottles and an insulated box and I began expressing.

Each day, as well as expressing for Kaya, I managed 120ml for the bank which I’d freeze. It doesn’t sound much but the tiniest babies only need a couple of millilitres, so every bit counts. I donated for seven months and hope to again now Cayden is five weeks old.

I mentioned having my long hair cut off on and someone suggested I give it to a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer. It’s amazing you can do something so small, so insignificant to you that can make such a massive difference to another person’s life.”

/ For details of milk banks, visit or call 0208 383 3559. To donate hair, see or

How could I deny someone a life?

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Leanne Flanagan, 22, of Cardiffis single with no children and works in a supermarket.

“I opened the letter and started to read. It said: ‘To my dear donor. Thank you for giving me the gift of life. My family and I cannot thank you enough. You will never know what you’ve done for me.’

Tears rolled down my cheeks.

When I signed up to be a bone marrow donor, I gave a blood sample and filled in some paperwork but I never thought I’d be a match.

Then, on my birthday the following year, in November 2007, I received a letter saying I was a potential match. I had some blood taken, then a fortnight later I got a letter to say I was a perfect match.

My family weren’t very happy because they were worried about health implications. But for me it was clear. There was someone out there, probably with leukaemia that would ultimately kill them, who knew there was a donor who could save them.

How could I deny them a chance of life?

I opted to give bone marrow through ‘peripheral blood stem cell donation’. It was simple.

For three days a nurse injected me with a special substance to boost my stem cells. Then on the fourth day the Anthony Nolan Trust paid for us to go to Londonwhere I spent five hours hooked up to a machine at University College Hospital.

I had a needle in each arm; one took blood out into a machine that collected the cells, the other put the ‘empty’ blood back in. I felt tired but nothing more.

I knew the whole process was anonymous so, when I received the letter via the trust I was bowled over.

I’ll never know the recipient but just to know there’s someone out there, still hopefully living a happy, healthy life because of me is just wonderful.”

To join the register or to find out more about the process see  or call 0207 284 1234.

It was very humbling

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Cathy Sidaway, 29, a business development manager, lives in York. She’s single and has no children.

“I was leafing through a paper a couple of years ago when I saw an advert from an anonymous couple who needed an egg donor. I thought I could be that person. It all came at a very poignant time. My friend had suffered multiple miscarriages and a relative has endometriosis and was struggling to get pregnant.

I spent some time on the National Gamete Donation Trust’s (NGDT) forum for those considering donation and called the number.

I had extensive counselling. It threw up all sorts of emotions. I was asked how I’d feel telling my own future children that somewhere they may have a half-sibling. I hope they and any future partner would understand. I also had to go through various medical tests.

It was almost a year by the time, last February, I finally donated via Guy’s Hospital, London. I had to go through a similar process to IVF to create as many eggs as possible.

They collected 14 eggs. It was a little uncomfortable but not awful. Sadly the recipient hasn’t got pregnant yet but I’m hopeful it will work out for her soon.

I donated once more and I’m just about to donate again. I met the woman online and was only going to tell her about the process, but we got on so well I offered to be her donor.

I thought I’d donate four times, but we’ll see. All I know is I can give a woman a shot at motherhood. That’s a very humbling experience.”

For more information see or call the helpline on 0845 226 9193.

I knew it could save a life

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Rebecca Khan, 29, lives in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, with husband, Kyle, 32, and children, Elena, 23 months and Leah, seven weeks. She works for the NHS – and in recruitment.

“I knew blood in the umbilical cord was live-saving through my work with the blood and transfusion service. I also know it’s hard to find matches for the ethnic community. So, being half-Greek with a half-Jamaican husband, I was desperate to donate. Sadly not all hospitals have a cord blood donation team but mine, Barnet General, does. It wasn’t long before I had a call from the donation team who took me through all the details and helped me fill in a consent form that I kept in my pregnancy notes.

I was devastated when, after Elena’s birth, they hadn’t been able to retrieve a full sample. There wasn’t enough blood in the cord.

So I made sure all the paperwork was in order again when I gave birth to Leah and hoped that this time they’d be successful. They were.

I had an elective caesarean so I didn’t even see when they took the cord away. But it doesn’t matter how you give birth, you can still donate.

Once they cut the cord and establish mum and baby are OK the cord blood team take the placenta and cord. The cells in cord blood can be sent all over the world to help cure patients of life-threatening diseases such as blood cancers and immune disorders.

It’s wonderful that something so useless to you could save a life.”

/For more info about hospitals with a cord blood team or to register to be a donor visit or call 0800 783 5870 or 020 8437 1740.

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