Selfless Milton Keynes mum saves the life of stranger by donating her stem cells - and makes Diwali appeal for others to do the same

It’s a simple act that can make an immeasurable difference
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A caring MK mum is making a special appeal for Diwali, the festival of light, to ease the darkness of blood cancer patients.

Poonam Shah, who has two young daughters, donated her stem cells to save the life of a stranger battling the disease.

She made the decision being inspired by reading a story about a young leukaemia patient and she is now appealing for other people to do the same.

Poonam Shah in hospital during the stem cell donation processPoonam Shah in hospital during the stem cell donation process
Poonam Shah in hospital during the stem cell donation process

The process of registering was simple—a mouth swab, a form, and a commitment, she says.

“After learning I was a potential match for someone in March 2020, I underwent medical tests, braving any fears I might have for the chance to potentially save a life... DKMS’s support was seamless throughout, and the doctors and nurses who guided me through the process were nothing short of heroes.

Poonam, who works as Head of Technology Operations for a motorway services provider. started a week of daily injections to prepare her body and boost white blood cell production to coax the release of stem cells into the bloodstream.

“My stem cells were collected in April 2020 in London, over the space of two days. It was a life-changing journey,” she said. but it wasn’t

She also donated lymphocytes, bone marrow cells responsible for fighting pathogens and killing off cancer cells. If given by infusion to a patient after a stem cell transplant, lymphocytes can recognise leukaemia cells and destroy them.

Her keenness to support DKMS’s work became even more personal about a year after she had donated, when a young family member was diagnosed with blood cancer.

Then, earlier this year, Poonam finally met with the patient who had received her own cells.

"It was a profound experience – witnessing his journey to recovery post-transplant. For his family and loved ones, this was the difference between end of life care and second chance at life,” she said.

“For Diwali – the festival of light – let's all continue to spread awareness and encourage more individuals to join the stem cell register; a simple act that can make an immeasurable difference. By joining, you may become someone’s light during dark times.”

DKMS holds the UK’s largest stem cell register. To date the charity has given 110,000 people around the world a second chance at life.

Their spokesperson Deborah Hyde said: “Poonam is an inspirational example of how becoming a stem cell donor can give people needing a transplant a second chance at life.”

Every year, nearly 13,000 people die from blood cancer in the UK and a new case is diagnosed every 20 minute.

Over 2,000 people in the UK every year need a stem cell transplant from a genetic match. Only three in ten UK patients will find a match within their family. This means every year thousands of people in the UK rely on a generous stranger registering with DKMS to save their life. Donors from underrepresented ethnic minority backgrounds are particularly needed.

"I'd willingly go through the stem cell process again, knowing it could potentially offer someone a second chance at life,” said Poonam.

You can find out more about becoming a stem cell donor or making a donation to DKMS here.