This week, student volunteers at Newcastle University, will support blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan’s two-week campaign which aims to raise awareness of the need for more young men to sign up to the stem cell register.
Anthony Nolan’s ‘Newcastle City’ campaign, which launched on Monday 15th March, is being supported by Newcastle Marrow, who are part of Anthony Nolan’s student volunteer network, ‘Marrow’, which operates in over 50 universities across the country.
Newcastle Marrow will volunteer, virtually, using their social media channels to spread the message far and wide amongst friends, family and the wider university community, educating them on stem cell donation and encouraging them to join the Anthony Nolan register.
Chloe Twistleton, President of Newcastle Marrow, said: ‘Newcastle Marrow are really excited to be part of this campaign. It’s a great opportunity to rally together the local community and spread the message of Anthony Nolan and why it’s so important to sign up to the stem cell register. Newcastle is one of the friendliest cities and everyone here supports one another. So, I’m asking every Geordie out there to consider signing up today or spread the word, so that one day, you might be able give someone a second chance at life.’
The campaign will also aim to raise 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, will be encouraging their fans to sign up.
Sixth form students at the Sacred Heart High School in the city, will have a virtual presentation on stem cell donation and several local businesses, including marketing agencies Vida Creative and Be Found Be Chosen, will share the campaign with their own staff, encouraging those who are eligible to sign up to the register. Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central, will also be sharing the campaign with her constituents through her social media channels.
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.
Amy said: ‘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 the 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 my life. She decided that she wanted to become a doctor and started a medical degree at Newcastle University two years ago.
Amy said: ‘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!’
Perry Graves, 27, who lives in Newcastle, donated his stem cells to a patient in desperate need of a stem cell transplant in 2019.
Perry said: ‘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 provides 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 is 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 some 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. Students in Newcastle, and across the country, have been credited by the charity 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 visit https://www.anthonynolan.org/newcastle