A teenager who has been accepted to study nursing has saved the life of a dying cancer patient even before starting her university course.
Erin MacKinnon is not due to begin her nursing degree until September but she was called up to give stem cells after registering with the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan.
Erin, 19, from the remote island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides, is the Western Isles’ first stem donor.
“I registered as a potential donor after hearing a talk at school in January 2019 never thinking that I would ever be a match for anyone,” said Erin.
“Then in January, the charity phoned to say I was a match for someone who was desperately ill and they asked if I would be prepared to fly to London to undergo stem cell removal.
“I agreed immediately because without it this cancer patient was unlikely to survive.”
A blood sample was taken by the island’s GP and sent to the charity’s headquarters in London. Within days Erin was called asking if she could prepare to fly to London, and she travelled south two weeks ago.
Over the next two days she spent eight hours having stem cells taken from her arm. The procedure works by taking out whole blood through donation, spinning it and separating stem cells from red blood cells through centrifugal force, and then transfusing the red cells back into her body.
“I didn’t feel a thing and just sat reading then watched a film,” said Erin. “All I know about the patient is that he is male, and he lives in the UK. In time, if everything works out well, I hope to meet him.”
Erin was recruited at her school on Benbecula by Scottish Fire and Rescue firefighter Dougie Campbell. A former firefighter colleague, Ally Boyle, has campaigned to sign up 81 stem cell donors while fighting his own battle with leukaemia.
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