Scotmid Co-operative has been working with the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan since September 2014. During that time, Scotmid staff and shoppers have taken part in everything from an icy lake swim to a hike up Mount Kilimanjaro, all in a bid to raise funds for the charity.
To date the partnership has allowed Anthony Nolan to recruit 3458 potential lifesavers to its register of stem cell donors. Each of these people could eventually save the life of someone’s mother, father, child or sibling.
But how did they join and what happens next?
Joining the Anthony Nolan register is simple. It involves going to the Anthony Nolan website and filling in a short form and then providing a saliva sample when a ‘spit kit’ is sent to you in the post. You can join if you are between the ages of 16 and 30 and in good health. Anthony Nolan is particularly looking for young men and people from ethnic minority backgrounds to sign up as these groups are underrepresented on the register.
Once you have posted your saliva sample back to Anthony Nolan, the charity’s labs in London will analyse the sample to work out your tissue type. When the scientists have these details, the saliva sample is stored and you are added to the register. As soon as you are on the register, you can be considered for each patient who needs a lifesaving stem cell transplant.
The vast majority of people who join the register never come up as a match for a patient. Unless they ask to be removed, they just remain on the register until they turn 60. At this point, they are automatically removed from the register.
For the few lucky people who do come up as a match, they will be contacted by Anthony Nolan and asked if they are willing to have further tests to confirm that they are definitely the best match for the patient. If they agree, they will be asked to give a blood sample from which Anthony Nolan’s scientists can gather further information about how close a match they are. If this confirms that they are the best match for the patient, they will be asked if they are willing to go ahead with the donation.
About 90 per cent of donors now donate their stem cells through a process similar to giving blood. This is a simple outpatient procedure which does not involve an anaesthetic. The remaining 10 per cent of donors donate their stem cells directly from the bone marrow in their hip. This involves a general anaesthetic and a short hospital stay but most donors say they experience nothing more than a little discomfort and bruising.
Even if you are not able to join the Anthony Nolan register, there are other ways in which you can help. You can take support the fundraising activities in your local Scotmid, Semichem or Lakes & Dales co-operative store or can volunteer at a donor recruitment event in your area.
For more information on volunteering please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7284 8243.