Young blood donors are being called upon as part of a new campaign to increase the number of people on the British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR).
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) are looking to recruit 7,500 Caucasian male blood donors between the ages of 18 and 30 and 2,500 Asian donors on to their bone marrow register to potentially be that one in a million chance for someone in desperate need of a transplant.
Currently the chances of Asian patients in the UK finding a matching donor can be as low as 40%, whereas Caucasian patients have around a 90% chance of finding a donor.
Many people suffering from life threatening blood disorders, cancers and immune deficiencies often require a life saving blood stem cell transplant from a donor with a matching tissue type. Research has shown that the most successful blood stem cell donations come from younger donors, as these have the strongest chance of success for the patient.
Blood donors already do an amazing thing by helping save and improve the lives of such patients on a daily basis, but they could also be that crucial match for someone waiting for a life saving stem cell (bone marrow) transplant by signing up to NHSBT’s British Bone Marrow Registry next time they donate blood!
Tony Blood from Peterborough was 26 when he became a blood donor and joined the BBMR while serving in the RAF at Henlow in 2007. Just six months later he received the call to say he was a match for a young boy with leukaemia.
'I received a letter through the post from the BBMR stating that I was a potential match for somebody and could I please go for additional tests', says Tony.
'The tests confirmed that I was a match for somebody and I was asked to go along to the donation centre to discuss the procedure in further detail. It was then that I learned that the recipient was a young boy suffering from Leukaemia. I was asked many times if I was sure I wanted to go through with it, but I just thought what an opportunity and privilege it is to be able to help give the gift of life to someone. This young boy, whoever he was, with my donation could potentially have another chance of life and be able to do all the things that young children should be doing. It wasn’t until December 2013 that I knew who my bone marrow went to when I received a letter from the young boy and his family. We decided to meet up and me and my family are going to visit him to help celebrate his 15th birthday soon.'
Guy Parkes, Head of Stem Cell Donation & Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: 'we really need young blood donors to sign up to the BBMR and potentially become that one in a million match for someone in desperate need of a transplant. Joining the registry is really easy, all you have to do is tell a member of staff at the start of your next blood donation session that you want to join the registry and an extra sample of blood will be taken during your donation.
'Our laboratory will then test this to establish your tissue type, which will be held anonymously on the BBMR database. That may be as far as it goes for some people, as many donors never come up as a potential match, but the more people we have on the register, the more of a chance we have at finding a match.'
Donating stem cells is as almost as simple as donating blood. It is usually done in hospital as a non-surgical outpatient procedure by a technique called Peripheral Blood Stem Cell donation where the blood is taken from a vein in the arm. The stem cells are separated out before the blood is returned to the donor's other arm.
NHS Blood and Transplant works closely with Anthony Nolan and the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry – if anyone has ever joined either of these, they do not need to join the BBMR as details are shared among the three registries.
To find out where your nearest session and to book an appointment to give blood and join the BBMR, call 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.blood.co.uk
Anyone willing to consider joining the stem cell register needs to tell staff at the start of their next blood donation session. Anyone with any questions before joining can email NHS Blood and Transplant at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors