A CANCER-STRICKEN engineer saw his own stem cells at the NHS centre he helped build - and they will now be used to help save his life.

Darren Dowle, from Royston, worked on the blood and transplant centre - in Dodworth - in 2018 and oversaw the erection of its steel frame.

The 58-year-old has myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, and visited to see his own frozen stem cells.

Bouts of chemotherapy will kill his cancer cells but could also damage his bone marrow - which is where cells are made - putting him at risk of bleeding and infections.

The reinfusion of his own stem cells should help his bone marrow recover within a week or two, according to medics.

He said: “The visit was so interesting - not many people get that chance.

“I met staff including the nurse who collected my stem cells, the driver who transported the cells and the scientists who processed and stored them.

“I helped build the venue and could see the outline of the steel frame in the stem cell storage room itself.

“More people need to understand how stem cells work - when I went in to have my cells collected, there were people were just going in to donate.

“I want to carry on as long as I can - you don’t realise what you will get in later life.

“Treatment means everything.”

The Barnsley centre opened in 2021 and provides blood, organ, stem cell and other related medical products to 39 hospitals in the north of England.

The many teams and functions at the centre include specialist training laboratories, cellular and molecular therapies, blood and organ compatibility testing and specialist nurses in organ donation.

It’s seen a rise in the number of stem cell collections, climbing from 498 in 2020 to 875 in last year.

Dr Khaled El-Ghariani, a consultant at the site, added: “There are various reasons why we have seen more stem cell collections in recent years.

“Clinical skills have improved and transplants are now offered to people such as older age groups and people with clinical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, who did not have transplants years ago.

“More indications are also emerging, for example people with illnesses such as sickle cell - this was not the case years ago.

“Darren will have his own cells back but for many other conditions we need a donor to provide the cells.

“We still need more donors to join the British Bone Marrow Registry, especially those of Asian and African-Caribbean heritage.”