EXAMINER journalist Adrian Sudbury has captured the hearts of many by campaigning for his dying wish: to persuade more people to sign up as bone marrow donors.
Adrian, 26, has been given just weeks to live after an 18-month battle against leukaemia.
He wants to use this time to raise awareness about the need for donors and to push for students in colleges and sixth forms to be better educated about what donation involves and how they can sign up.
His appearances on TV, radio and in the national press have provoked a hugely supportive response, including backing from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Health Secretary Alan Johnson and Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
But the fight to raise awareness of the need for more bone marrow donors began long before Adrian started his ‘last mission’ and launched his campaign with the Examiner a week ago.
The Anthony Nolan Trust has been battling to recruit donors to the register since it was formed 30 years ago.
It was set up by Shirley Nolan, who was trying to find a donor for her son, Anthony. He was suffering an immune deficiency disease and died aged seven without ever finding a bone marrow donor.
The charity keeps one of the UK’s registers of bone marrow donors. The other is kept by the National Blood Service.
When a UK patient needs a bone marrow transplant it is the trust which searches registers all over the world to find them a match donor.
This is a monumental task. There are 16,000 people worldwide waiting for a transplant, for a chance of life. There are just over 300,000 registered donors in the UK and 12m across the world.
It seems like a lot. But the odds of a donor being a match range from one in several thousand to almost miniscule.
Then you have the problem of donors having to come off the register when they reach 60 or if they develop a medical problem.
Steve McEwan, the trust’s chief executive, says getting people aged 18 to 40 to join the register is an uphill struggle.
The main problem is educating people about exactly what is involved and putting out the message that it is not a scary or dangerous procedure.
Mr MsEwan said: “It’s not always easy for people to understand what we do. Sometimes it takes a donor or patient to recruit a donor. You do need to have that opportunity to sit down with someone or hear someone’s story to know what’s involved.”
He said the publicity generated by Adrian and his award-winning Baldy’s Blog, which has chronicled his 18-month journey, has touched people on a personal level.
“He’s an incredibly inspirational individual. I met him after he had his transplant and he’s been incredibly keen to help the charity in getting its message across.
“The fact that things have taken a turn for the worse and he is still campaigning to raise awareness means our admiration for the man is incredible.
“I have had a number of responses from people who have been on Adrian’s blog. I think anyone who reads that blog would know what an amazing story he’s been telling. His message and the way he writes is special.
“It sometimes does take an emotional push to get people to join the register. It may be that you tag along with a friend to a clinic or maybe you join because a relative needs a transplant.
“If you are trying to talk in abstract terms about bone marrow and registers it is not the same as seeing someone make a personal push like Adrian is doing.”
Mr McEwan said that so far the trust’s education efforts had focussed on universities, but getting the message across to younger students was a good idea.
“If schools and colleges made pupils aware of what bone marrow donation was then during their adult lives, when the opportunity arises, the message about donation may be received by them in a most positive way.
“We would totally accept that the message of what being a donor means should be got across at a younger age. That’s why the Government backing for the campaign will be helpful. It is not the Government that recruits donors; it’s people. But its support is important to facilitate what we are trying to achieve.”