TOP experts from bone marrow, organ and blood donation services gathered at the Galpharm Stadium to raise awareness of the need for more donors.
They met yesterday at a clinic organised by the Examiner and NHS Blood and Transplant as part of our Sign Up For Sudders campaign.
The campaign is being fronted by 27-year-old Examiner reporter Adrian Sudbury, who has just weeks left to live following an 18-month fight with leukaemia.
His dying wish is to educate as many people as possible about the need for more donors.
As well as talking to experts at the clinic, people could give blood and sign up to the British Bone Marrow Register.
A total of 19 people were able to donate – eight of them brand new donors.
Eight people signed up to the British Bone Marrow Register.
Rachel Hollingworth, from NHS Blood and Transplant, said that although numbers seemed low, the clinic had been a success.
“At a regular blood donation session, mainly we have repeat donors who we have invited to come. Everyone here today had been inspired by Adrian’s campaign and so they are extra to our usual donors.
“Each donation of blood will be split into different cells, so 19 donors is about 57 lives saved. We have had a much higher number of new donors than usual and hopefully some of those people will continue to donate. I would say it was an absolutely fantastic result.”
The new donors included Neil Edwards, 43, from Colne Bridge. He signed up as a bone marrow donor at the clinic and also gave blood for the first time.
Mr Edwards is the uncle of Newsome girl Sophie Edwards, seven, who is searching for a bone marrow match to fight her leukaemia.
He said: “I never realised how important blood donation was.
“Knowing someone like Sophie changes your attitude. I will keep coming back.”
His daughter Natalie, 18, had signed up as a blood donor even before her cousin became ill.
She also signed up as a bone marrow donor via the Anthony Nolan Trust register.
The trainee nursery nurse said: “I signed up as a blood donor because I just like helping people. My mum told me about giving blood. Giving blood or signing the bone marrow register is really easy.”
Neil Dobson, 49, from Quarmby, signed up as a bone marrow donor and gave blood after hearing about the clinic on the radio. He said: “I had thought about giving blood many a time but I never knew where to come. It was my first time giving blood and it was simple.”
Jason McCartney, prospective parliamentary Tory candidate for the Colne Valley, signed up as a bone marrow donor and gave blood.
He said: “I used to give blood regularly but like many people I fell out of the habit. I was motivated by reading about Adrian’s story. It is such a simple thing to do. Adrian has done such a fantastic job of highlighting the need for more people to go on the register.”
Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, echoed this.
She said: “Adrian has been fantastic in promoting not just the bone marrow register but also all the work we do. Only 5% of people regularly give blood and every day we need 7,000 units of blood to save lives and improve lives through treatment.
“Every year, 1,000 people on the organ register will die or be taken off because they are too ill to benefit from treatment. That’s a terrible thing. By putting your name on the bone marrow or organ donor registers you are giving someone the opportunity to have the gift of life.”
Derwood Pamphilion, medical director of the British Bone Marrow Register, said many people are reluctant to become donors because they mistakenly believe it to be a painful ordeal.
He said there are also cultural misunderstandings about who can donate – meaning there is a shortage of donors from ethnic minority groups.
He said: “My mission is to try and make sure that no matter what background you come from, you have an equal chance of getting a match. Being a donor is quite a commitment but it gives people a sense of achievement.”
Steve Bell, regional manager for donor care and co-ordination for UK Transplant, said there is also a huge shortage of organ donors to help the 4,000 people waiting for transplants.
He said it is vital for people to discuss their wishes with loved ones, even if they are registered as organ donors.
He said: “All our research shows that people think organ donation is a good thing. But in contrast to that, at the time of potential donation the refusal rate is between 48 and 60%.
“One of the reasons is that families don’t want any further upset at a difficult time. The wishes of the deceased are paramount but we would always consult with the family.
“We do find that people generally want to carry out their loved ones’ wishes. That is why it is important to have a conversation about organ donation with your relatives.”
Colne Valley MP Kali Mountford, who has been supporting Adrian’s campaign, attended the clinic and spoke to donors about their experiences.
She said: “We have had some really useful feedback today from people at the clinic. I will be asking the Department of Health to learn from these experiences and see what can be done to improve access to clinics.”
l For more information about Adrian’s campaign, visit http://baldyblog.freshblogs.co.uk. For details about organ donation, call 0845 6060 400 or visit www.uktransplant.org.uk. To find out more about giving blood or being a bone marrow donor, call 0845 7 711 711, visit www.blood.co.uk or www.anthonynolan.org.uk