A 23-year-old student has saved the life of a 50-year-old leukaemia sufferer he doesn’t even know, by heroically donating his bone marrow.
Cookstown native Jarlath Cowan signed up with Anthony Nolan — the UK’s blood cancer charity and bone marrow register — after coming across them at student halls in Belfast last year.
And after filling in a form, and providing a saliva sample, he said he was very surprised to be one of just 1% of people he said are actually called on to make a donation — but happy he was given the chance.
The procedure he said, horror stories of massive needles being inserted into your spine aside, was all very straight forward.
“For four days building up to it I had to get four injections a day, it basically makes your bones swell, that was a wee bit uncomfortable but it’s not unbearable,” he told the MAIL.
“There was that old procedure where you get a big injection in your spine — nowadays they have a way of doing it through your blood — so I literally just had to get a needle in each arm and then I just had to lie on a bed for five hours.
“You can see your blood filtering through a big machine in front of you and there was this bag attached to it. It separated the cells and stuff — it was like this orangey gooey stuff that was collecting — and that’s what they needed.
“The blood went out one arm... and back in the other arm. It was no bother at all.
“I actually felt better afterwards, as it stimulates your marrow.”
The youngest son of Jimmy and Marie Cowan, who made the trip to London for his marrow cells to be harvested in June last year, said he was treated in a hospital fit for a king.
“They were all really nice people — it was a private hospital where they treat the royals,” he said.
“And while I was getting the procedure done I was allowed to drink tea and coffee, and just sat reading.
“It wasn’t like a big operation or anything like that, it was just really simple and really straight forward.”
His advice to others thinking about donating their bone marrow is “just go for it, what have you got to lose?”
“It’s great you know,” he went on, “it just sort of hits you every once in a while,” he said of saving another person’s life.
“It feels great.”
On the man he saved, he said: “All I know is it’s a 50-year-old male. I think they said it was a leukaemia patient, but I’m not 100%.”
And despite all the effort, travelling and the slight discomfort he felt at the time, the journalism student said he would do it again at the drop of a hat, if he could help another person.
“I had no problems at all getting it done,” he said.