"My name is M. Antonia Belmonte although everybody calls me Toñi and I live in Pinto, Madrid. This is the story of the donation I effectuated not so long ago.
I had always wanted to become a donor. Since I was young, I went with my father to the hospital so that he could give blood. Since then, I knew that I wanted to become a donor.
I still remember my friend Esteban. He was a very smart, chubby and amusing kid, and a great student. We were very good friends. You can't imagine how hard it is for a 13 or 14-year-old girl to have to tell his friend the truth about a medical report which says that he has acute leukaemia. The doctor's handwriting was hard to read and for that reason I was able to say that I didn't understand what the report said, and that he didn't have to worry. Unfortunately, my friend Esteban wasn't able to beat the illness and he died when he was only 14-years-old.
I believe firmly that both my father and Esteban were key in my decision to become a donor, not just a blood donor (which I am since I turned 18) but also an organ donor, and lastly, a bone marrow donor.
Nine years ago, I don't remember how, I received information on how to become a bone marrow donor. I remember that when I went to the Infantil Niño Jesús Hospital, in Madrid, to take the analysis to become a donor, everyone thought I was there because my daughter María (who was a baby) was sick, and they smiled when I explained the real reason for why I was visiting the hospital.
They informed me about the difficulty of being compatible with someone in need of a transplant, which is why I was surprised when I got the call.
This past Christmas they told me that I had been preselected to done my marrow and for me it was the best Christmas present I could ever want. I took all the previous analysis at the Transfusion Centre in Madrid. There, a lady explained the whole process, they took some blood and they made sure I didn't leave without eating breakfast.
In February, Mavi (the person who contacted me from the José Carreras Foundation) called me again to tell me that I had been selected as the best donor. I had to effectuate the donation at the beginning of March, so we had to move quickly. Mavi explained to me, through the phone and through email, how the process of donating worked, what the methods were and the pros and cons of each of them.
I decided that the hospital where the donation would took place would be Gregorio Marañón in Madrid, for it was the one that could effectuate the donation the quickest and it was the one I had closest to my home. I decided that the donation would be through peripheral blood.
They called me again to run some tests, an electro, a complete blood and urine analytic, a vein test and a complete oncological and haematological control. My first contact was with Cristina (haematology secretary), who called me to explain to me how to arrive better to the hospital, how to move around once I was inside it and to make sure that my stay there was comfortable.
During the tests I was with Aurelia, an awesome nurse who took me to all the tests and told everyone that it was an ALTRUIST donation, what made all of the professionals congratulate me. My self-esteem rose completely for I spent the morning listening to people telling me how incredible I was. I have to say that the whole process surprised me in the middle of a divorce and my emotional state wasn't always the best, but that morning I got out of the hospital with my batteries fully charged. At the end of the morning, Aurelia took me to the consult of Dr. Serrano, where they did a physical exam and they explained to me clearly how I was going to effectuate the donation and what I was going to feel in the process.
Because I had chosen the peripheral blood method, I had to take a series of shots during the days before, which they gave me at the pharmacy. I injected them myself at home, for they were subcutaneous (like an insulin injection). I didn't need any type of sedative such as Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. I just felt a little tired and a little bit sore (like when you're about to grow).
The day of the donation I went to the hospital, to the blood donor zone, and there was Encarna, an exceptional nurse who stayed beside me though the whole process. During the hours of the extraction, she made sure that I had everything, she gave me food, drinks, covered me with a blanket so that I wasn't cold, showed me how the machine worked, gave me conversation, put on the TV... and many other things which I am probably forgetting.
The donation was a success and they told me that the transplant was effectuated the next day to a Spanish patient.
Despite the efforts made by Encarna, the process took almost five hours and so I had time to think about many things. I remembered Esteban, my father... I also thought about the ARAP Association (Rehabilitated Alcoholics Assotiation in Pinto), where I am a member. Yes, I am an alcoholic and if it isn't because three years ago I decided to go to this wonderful association I doubt that the donation could have been done. During some horrible years I was completely pathetic, depressed, full of fears and all of this because I wasn't able to say NO in time and I decided to take the easy way out, let myself go and forget about everything. Right now I feel good with myself; my self-esteem is high although that doesn't keep me from being humble and asking for help when I need it. With this I only want to demonstrate that if you want, you can do it, you can leave alcohol, you can help others and you can be happy.
Throughout the whole process I was with my sister Sonia who was with me at all times. The expenses in food, displacements, etc. were covered by the José Carreras Foundation, both mine and my sister's. It was as easy as sending an email with the receipts scanned, and a couple of days after, I already had the money in my bank account.
Right now I have just taken my monthly control. If I want, in the following five years I can go to check-ups at the Gregorio Marañón where they will check other things such as my thyroid levels (I have hypothyroidism) and they send you the results by mail. They have flexible hours and they clear all the doubts that come up.
This is the story of the donation I have effectuated. I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to become donors and to not let go the opportunity to live this experience, it is worth it.
I want to thank Mavi, Cristina, Aurelia, Dr. Serrano, Encarna and all of the professionals working at Gregorio Marañón, and the José Carreras Foundation.
Also, I want to thank my sister Sonia for the patience and company she has given me.
I also want to thank each and every one of the members of the ARAP, for without their help I wouldn't be who I am today.
But specially I want to thank my father and Esteban for making me take conscience about the importance of becoming a donor.
THANK YOU EVERYONE"