3 years ago

Donation of peripheral blood stem cells to unrelated strangers: A thematic analysis

Andre Strydom, Annelies Billen, J. Alejandro Madrigal, Bronwen E. Shaw, Katrina Scior

Donation of haematopoietic stem cells, either through bone marrow (BM) or peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection, is a generally safe procedure for healthy donors, although side effects are a known risk. Previous research, including our recent quantitative study, has shown that the psychosocial response to donating is usually a positive one and most donors would be willing to donate again in the future. This is often despite experiencing significant side effects during the donation process. Due to the relative recent introduction of PBSC, a comprehensive understanding of the range of physical and emotional issues donors may experience is lacking, as well as an understanding of specific donor characteristics Qualitative research can provide rich narrative data into these areas. This study was set up in order to identify specific donor characteristics and to further explore the relationship between pre-donation physical health and the donation experience, as previously identified in our quantitative study.


It involved in-depth telephone interviews with 14 PBSC donors who participated in our original quantitative study. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the findings and the results provide a summary of participants’ characteristics using themes and constituent codes.


We identified several donor characteristics, including strong intrinsic motivation, altruism, sense of duty, determination, low levels of ambivalence and the ability to develop a strong emotional relationship with an (unknown/anonymous) recipient whilst being able to manage strong feelings and emotions.


These personality traits may explain the resilience that has been observed previously in haematopoietic stem cells donors. Significant feelings of grief were reported after a recipient’s death. Possibilities to alleviate these symptoms may include raising awareness of potential poor outcomes in the recipient and offering improved counselling services if the recipient dies. We acknowledge several limitations including the sampling frame.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186438

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