STUDENT volunteers at Newcastle University recently supported blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan’s campaign to raise awareness of the need for more young men to sign up to the stem cell register.
The campaign saw over 170 potential lifesavers from the city step up: any one of them could be called upon to give someone with blood cancer a second chance at life. There are now over 4500 people in Newcastle Upon Tyne on the Anthony Nolan register.
Anthony Nolan’s ‘Newcastle City’ campaign, which ran from Monday 15th March to Wednesday 31st March, was supported by Newcastle Marrow, who is part of Anthony Nolan’s student volunteer network, ‘Marrow’, which operates in over 50 universities across the country.
Chloe Twistleton, President of Newcastle Marrow, said:
“As President of Newcastle Marrow, I have helped to head up the city campaign along with the team from Anthony Nolan. Along with other volunteers, I have been a ‘social media advocate’, which has meant messaging hundreds of people, using social media and other digital channels to spread the word and encourage people to sign up to the register. The work that we have done will help to save lives, and that feeling is immeasurable.”
The campaign also raised awareness of Anthony Nolan in Newcastle through engagement with schools, local businesses, podcasts and sports clubs.
Professional rugby club the Newcastle Falcons, and sports clubs including Gateshead Rugby Club and Hazlerigg Victory FC, encouraging their fans to sign up to the register online.
On Thursday, 18 March, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge lit up in blue and green, as student volunteers from Newcastle Marrow paid tribute to Maisie Ryan, a former Newcastle University student who tragically died in a road traffic accident in February.
Maisie, 27, was a much-loved Newcastle Marrow volunteer during her time at Newcastle University and the society wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to her.
Amy Halliwell, 27, a student at the University of Newcastle, was 19 when she was admitted to hospital with low blood count and liver failure and was diagnosed with very severe Aplastic Anaemia.
“Once I had my diagnosis, that very afternoon, a wonderful nurse specialist came and sat with me and explained all about what would happen next – this is when I first heard about Anthony Nolan. The nurse explained that Anthony Nolan is a register full of wonderful volunteer donors and that the charity would search that register in order to hopefully find a match for me.
“The wait to find out whether there was a match for me was long and difficult. I remember the day the doctors came in and told me they’d found someone, I cannot express how relieved me and my family were. A couple of months later, we started the process of the transplant. This can be gruelling for patients, but it is often their only chance at survival.”
After five months in hospital, Amy was able to return home and start to rebuild her life. She decided that she wanted to become a doctor and started a medical degree at Newcastle University two years ago.
“During my first week as a fresher, I saw the Marrow stand and absolutely had to get involved. During my time with Newcastle Marrow, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to potential donors and recruit people to the register. This year I’m on the organising committee and have really enjoyed it!”
“I signed up to the stem cell register after watching a TV programme about a kid who needed a matching donor. Only a few months later, I came up as a match!
“Donating was a bit like giving blood, just for much longer. It’s worth it for the difference you’ll make. Imagine if you needed a donor to save your life or a friend or family member. You’re relying on the kindness of strangers.
“I’ve told people about my donation in the hope they’ll join the register too. You can join from the age of 16, and I felt guilty that I hadn’t joined sooner. But it’s better late than never! All it takes is a quick mouth swab and filling out a form. If you’re a match for someone, you’ll be the best possible chance for that person to survive. Who can say no to that?”
Lynsey Dickson, Development Manager at Anthony Nolan, said:
“Our presence in the city provided the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the need for more young men between the ages of 16- 30 to sign up as potential donors.
“Everyone who was involved in the campaign, from volunteers to local businesses and sports clubs, really are heroes, helping Anthony Nolan give hope to patients with blood cancer by signing up potential stem cell donors to the register. Any one of them could be called upon to give someone with blood cancer a second chance of life.”
One in four people who donated their stem cells in the last two years were inspired by Marrow to join the Anthony Nolan register. The charity has credited students in Newcastle and across the country for recruiting more than 150,000 people to the UK stem cell register since Marrow first started in 1998.
To find out more about Anthony Nolan and the Newcastle City campaign, please visit: https://www.anthonynolan.org/newcastle.