London Fire Brigade backs appeal for more mixed race stem cell donors
Tommy Simpson is a 4-year old boy of white (British) and black (Caribbean) heritage who loves nothing more than playing with his toy airplanes and putting on his Dad’s uniform, pretending to be a firefighter. In January 2016 he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), after being admitted to hospital a few days before Christmas. He has been in hospital ever since.
This week Tommy’s parents London firefighter Nigel Simpson, 48, and Education Associate at Mary Kay Cosmetics (UK) Ltd Maxine Francis, 45, have launched an urgent appeal to find Tommy a potential lifesaving stem cell donor in the event his imminent test results reveal he will require an unrelated stem cell (bone marrow) donor to save his life.
Tommy’s mixed heritage makes it extremely hard to find a donor as matching stem cell tissue types are inherited. Mixed race people like Tommy have less than a 20% chance of finding an unrelated best possible match; as do individuals who are black or from a minority ethnic background. There are only 3% of donors on the UK stem cell register who are mixed race, making Tommy’s chances of finding an unrelated donor extremely difficult.
Tommy, who is an only child, is currently being treated at London’s Great Ormond Street hospital. Extended family members were immediately tested; however, a suitable match within the family was not found.
"He is being so brave; we are so proud of him."
Tommy’s parents Nigel and Maxine say:
“Tommy doesn’t have any siblings so the 1 in 4 chance of a sibling being a match doesn’t exist for Tommy. It is at best a 50% chance for parents to be a match for their children; this is normally a route doctors go down when they can’t find anything better. We know the window of opportunity for an unrelated match being found is going fast with each day passing; that’s why we are appealing for people to join the stem cell register now. Particularly if you are White Northern European, Black African or Caribbean and mixed race (white/black), you may potentially be able to save the life of our funny and beautiful little boy”.
“We would like to say thank you to our family and friends for their support so far. We are staying strong and are 100% focused on our beautiful son. He is being so brave; we are so proud of him.”
Blood cancer charity ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust) are leading the #Match4Tommy campaign by hosting donor registration drives to find an unrelated match for Tommy. Please CLICK HERE to view ACLT registration drives.
"It is crucial members of the general public come together to help this vibrant little boy.”
The first donor drive being held for the #Match4Tommy appeal will take place on Saturday 20th February at the Lucozade Power League, Croydon Hannibal Way, Croydon, CR0 4RW, 10.30am-4pm.
A donor drive is also scheduled to take place at the Capital FM HQ, Global, 30 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7LA on Saturday 19th March, between 11am-6pm.
Nigel Simpson’s colleagues at the London Fire Brigade (LFB) are showing their support to the #Match4Tommy campaign by hosting a stem cell donor drive at his place of work; Stratford Fire Station -117 Romford Road, E15 4LY on Saturday 9th April.
LFB Commissioner Ron Dobson CBE, says:
“Firefighters are at the heart of our communities and help others day in day out to keep London safe. Now we need help from the public to respond to this urgent appeal to sign up as donors for a London firefighters’ s son Tommy. If you are yet to join the stem cell register, please attend this donor registration drive and encourage your family and friends to attend too; Tommy desperately needs your help”.
ACLT co-founder and blood cancer campaigner Beverley De-Gale OBE says:
“Twenty years ago ACLT was launched prior to us embarking on a 3-year national campaign to find my 8-year old son Daniel an unrelated match. The campaign was a success; Daniel went onto to become the UK’s first black individual to receive an unrelated stem cell donor. In the same way we were committed all those years ago to find a lifesaving donor for our son, we are committed to raise awareness on stem cell donation in order to find a lifesaving donor for young Tommy. It is crucial members of the general public come together to help this vibrant little boy.”
For more information on the #Match4Tommy donor drives being scheduled, call ACLT on 020 3757 7700 or visit aclt.org.
If you're 16–30 and in good health, you can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register here. If you don't meet our joining criteria, please consider making a donation towards our vital work, or signing up with Delete Blood Cancer UK or the British Bone Marrow Registry.