On Wednesday 1st October, throughout Leicester there will be seven pop-up registration stations and one in Loughborough, where students and anyone aged between 16 and 30 years old can sign up to be on the Anthony Nolan register. Anthony Nolan is the name of a blood cancer charity and bone marrow register. In 1974, Shirley Nolan set up the world’s first register to match donors when her three old son Anthony was in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant. The charity now helps three people each day find a lifesaving match.

Bone marrow or stem cell donors can help people with blood cancers; such as leukaemia, and blood disorders; such as sickle cell anaemia. These are serious illnesses as blood is vital to the immune system which is integral in fighting off infections and other diseases. Common treatments in blood cancers and disorders are chemotherapy, radiotherapy and, in some cases, a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. This means that when a patient needs a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, all other options have been exhausted. A transplant involves taking the healthy stem cells from the donor and putting them into the patient where they begin to grow and make healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, which in turn strengthen their immune system. The procedure is similar to a blood transfusion.

Rik Basra, a Leicestershire police officer, received a bone marrow transplant in 2011 from an anonymous donor through the Anthony Nolan register. This drive for new registrants is being led by Rik, whose transplant was successful, and De Montfort University’s Square Mile Programme. Rik and his family have set up the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign, which came to DMU and got students to sign up last year. DMU has twice broken the record for recruiting the most students to the stem cell register at the previous events, in signing up more than 1,745 potential donors. The DMU Square Mile initiative won The Guardian University Award for “Community Contribution” this year, for its record-breaking work with The Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign.

The eight pop-up registration stations on Wednesday will be at:

  • De Montfort University – Campus Centre
  • Leicester Railway station
  • Gallowtree Gate
  • Clock Tower
  • Humberstone Gate
  • Highcross Shopping Centre
  • Jubilee Square
  • Loughborough University – students’ union

This event is called ‘race to 1000,’ with the hashtag #Raceto1000, and the aim is to get one thousand people to sign up to the register in one day. As DMU, Rik Basra and Anthony Nolan want as many people to sign up as possible, Loughborough University are also joining this drive for donors. The Anthony Nolan charity ‘particularly needs more young men to sign up. They produce more stem cells than women and are six times more likely to donate, but make up just 15% of the register.’ They also need more donors from black and minority ethnic backgrounds as the charity ‘often struggles to find matches for these people.’

Rik told the DMU website, “We’re very excited to be signing up potential lifesavers at eight different locations in a single day. It’s going to be a fun day with lots going on and plenty of entertainment, but most importantly, we want people take a few minutes out of their day to register with Anthony Nolan. Every single person we sign up has the potential to save a life, I know only too well because someone did it for me!”

Emile Heskey, who was born in Leicester, played for England and is a Leicester City favourite, will be visiting the DMU campus to meet students and make sure as many people as possible sign up to the register. He said, ‘When I was asked by Rik to help out, I just couldn’t say no. It’s a pleasure to help the team recruit more lifesavers, what’s more important than that? It’s so easy to sign up, everyone should be doing it.’

Saving lives is exactly what registrants will be doing. Signing up does not mean that Doctors will be syphoning blood off there and then. All that would be required is for people to fill out a form and provide a saliva sample, which will then be tested to see if the stem cells are a match to any patients. It is not invasive, it hardly takes up any time, and by encouraging friends to do the same; it will help find potential donors.

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