The Hidden Hero of St Andrews

For many people suffering from a blood cancer, such as leukaemia, a stem cell transplant may be their last chance of life. The likelihood of finding a compatible donor from within the family is only 25%. The hope of the other 75% rests in the National Bone Marrow Register. The chance of finding a non-family match from the National Register ranges from 1 in 450 to 1 in 750,000, depending on how rare the tissue-type of the patient is.

So that makes it pretty incredible that a student in our very own little St Andrews bubble was a match for a person in need of a stem cell transplant, having donated earlier this year. Like all true heroes, their identity is hidden (by patient confidentiality rather than a mask and spandex suit). Who knows, they could be sitting next to you right now… They are out there somewhere and they did something amazing. What started out as filling in a form and spitting in a little tube to join the Register ended up with the life saving donation that someone and their family will never forget.

This is why it is so important that as many people as possible join the register and make those odds a little better.

The Marrow Society are a student run society with the mission of getting as many potential donors as possible to sign up to the National Bone Marrow Register and to fundraise for our parent charity, Anthony Nolan (they manage and recruit donors and carry out pioneering research to improve the lives of people with blood cancers). So far Anthony Nolan has saved the lives of 8000 people; with your help they can increase that number.

What can you do?

1. Join the register at one of our recruitment clinics.

There are several every semester. The next clinics are being held on the 5th and 6th of March, at DRA and St. Regulus’ halls respectively. If you are keen for some potential lifesaving:

–       You must be a permanent UK resident for a minimum of the next 3 years (if not we would encourage you to join the register of your home country, all the registers are linked together anyway)

–       There are a few medical conditions which may exclude you from joining, but if in doubt come along and ask us

–       Don’t eat for half an hour prior to arrival (we need nice clean spit)

–       Fill in a form with your contact details, have a quick chat with a member of Marrow and spit in a tube (so your tissue-type can be identified)

The whole thing will take you 15-20 minutes. Don’t let fear hold you back. In the unlikely event that you are a match for someone, 90% of all stem cell donations are now done by a technique similar to donating blood, rather than the direct removal of bone marrow from your hip.

"It was really easy and it doesn’t take a lot to do. The first thing I felt after my donation was hunger. I remember wanting fish and chips." – Alex (stem cell donor and life saver). 

2. Tell a friend.

Even tell people you don’t like that much. The more stem cells the merrier!

3. Buy some cakes from our bake sale outside the library on the 12th of March.

There are currently almost 1,600 people in the UK waiting for a stem cell transplant and 37,000 worldwide. Could you be their match?

We are quite a small society and are always on the look-out for bright young things to help out with fundraising and the running of clinics. Check out our facebook for news and events or e-mail marrow@st-andrews.ac.uk and get in touch if you have any questions or want to get involved.

Images courtesy of Wilson's Vision and vetpathologist. Compiled and edited by Kerri P. 

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