PE TEACHER Carl Zaffino has had his hopes of becoming a lifesaving bone marrow donor dashed.
The all-round sportsman, who spends his working days teaching sport, has been told his body mass index is too high.
The 38-year-old PE teacher signed up to the British Bone Marrow Register via the National Blood Service three years ago.
He was delighted when on June 10 he was told he was a possible match for a patient who needed a bone marrow transplant.
But just days later, he was told over the phone by a NBS adviser that his BMI was too high for him to donate and he has now been removed from the register.
Mr Zaffino said he felt it was wrong for him to be dismissed over the phone when he could have potentially saved someone’s life. The chances of being a bone marrow match for a patient are just one in thousands.
He said: “I was excited at the thought I might actually save someone’s life. But I was dismissed on a calculation over the phone.
“I had been asked to visit my surgery to give another blood sample, so couldn’t they have done a medical then to decide whether I was fit enough? Someone out there could have been a match for me. When you get to the stage where you have been chosen as a potential donor, surely they could check you in a more in-depth way?”
Mr Zaffino’s BMI was calculated at 36.19, which technically makes him obese. But he says the figure is calculated only taking into account his height – 5ft 10ins – and weight, which is 18 stones.
Despite being classified as obese, he says he is in good shape and that his weight is only so high because of the amount of muscle he has built.
“Your BMI can be misleading. Rugby players and athletes are technically obese because of their BMI. After all, muscle weighs more than fat. I don’t drink, or smoke or have high blood pressure.”
Mr Zaffino wrote a letter of complaint to the National Blood Service, which runs the register – one of two in the UK.
He received a reply saying the matter had been referred to the director of the register.
The National Blood Service say they are now reviewing their information leaflets and ensuring that clear advice about BMIs is given when people come to sign up as donors at clinics.
A spokeswoman said it was not possible to speak about individual cases, but commented: “Like any medical procedure, donating bone marrow does have some associated risks, so the absolute priority is to ensure these are kept to a minimum.
“If an individual has a BMI of 35 or over, expert advice suggests there would be greater health risks associated with becoming a bone marrow donor. They would therefore be unable to donate under most circumstances.”
She said that although some sporting people do have high BMIs despite being fit and healthy, there would still be possible risks.
“There would still be a higher associated risk, so it is safer and more responsible to have a maximum BMI which applies to all. We acknowledge that we have a responsibility to communicate this issue clearly to potential bone marrow donors.
“We will therefore review our current promotional literature and take steps to ensure the BMI guidelines are made clear when donors are considering joining the BBMR. “
To join the British Bone Marrow Register you must be aged 18 to 49 and eligible to give blood. You can join when you go to give blood by asking at the start of the session, filling in a form and giving an extra blood sample.
You can also join the Anthony Nolan Trust’s bone marrow donor register. You must be aged 18 to 40 and in good health. You do not need to be eligible to give blood, and gay men can join this register.
For more information, visit www.anthonynolan.org.uk or www.blood.co.uk