A local mum’s quest to find a bone marrow match for her son inspired many of his school mates to join the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register. Now, two of those pupils have already gone on to save a stranger’s life.
Jack Coen from Ilkley and Joe Rowbottom from Yeadon, both 18, donated their stem cells to strangers after signing up to the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register at Bradford Grammar School.
Jack, a former Bradford Grammar pupil and Joe, a current Bradford Grammar pupil signed up to the register after a hearing a Register & Be a Lifesaver (R&Be) talk from the charity Anthony Nolan.
R&Be is an education programme for 16 to 18-year-olds which delivers talks about bone marrow, blood and organ donation. The R&Be programme was set up as a legacy of Adrian Sudbury, an inspirational young journalist who died of leukaemia in 2008. The school hosted the talk as a fellow pupil, Alex Anstess, had been diagnosed with leukaemia and was looking for a matching donor.
Jack, who signed up in 2013, said: “I just thought if you have the opportunity to save someone’s life then why not? If I was in that position, I’d want someone to do it for me.”
Jack later found out he was a perfect match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant and went on to donate on the 20th October 2014.
“On the day, I thought about the other person receiving my stem cells and hoped I could give them more Christmases with their family. If I never make another good decision for the rest of my life - I have at least made one good and worthwhile decision by donating."
“I just want to say thank you to my school, to Anthony Nolan, and to the volunteers who did the R&Be talk. I knew nothing about donating stem cells before the talk and they have given me the opportunity to save a stranger’s life.”
Joe Rowbottom, a school friend of Alex, signed up last year and went to donate in February 2015.
Joe said, “It was so easy to spit in a tube and sign up. It’s not any expense in terms of time or money, everyone should do it.”
“It was weird to think a stranger was dependent on me and yet it’s such a small thing to do. I It was actually surprising something so simple could save someone’s life.
“Knowing Alex spurred me on to donate because I knew what the person was going through. It’s great to see Alex back at school and proves the donor register does work.”
Sue Anstess called Bradford Grammar when her son Alex was receiving treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2012 aged just 15 years old. She asked them if they would host an R&Be talk for their sixth formers - and they accepted.
The initial treatment lead to Alex going into remission, only for the family to be told his cancer had returned in July 2014, after a routine check up. It was then the family learned Alex was reliant upon a lifesaving transplant from a stranger.
Anthony Nolan found a perfect match on the register for Alex and he had a successful transplant on 26th September 2014 and is now on the long road to recovery.
Sue said: “I cannot describe the feeling of seeing that little bag of stem cells come in for Alex. We waited a long time for that moment and I’ll never forget the relief we felt. We’re so thankful to the donor who literally saved his life.”
“It’s absolutely brilliant that Jack and Joe have gone on to donate and help another family like ours, it just shows one phone call can work wonders.”
Katie Day, Register & Be a Lifesaver programme lead at Anthony Nolan, said: “Jack and Joe’s generous act of donating their stem cells proves that young people have the selflessness and maturity to save lives. What Sue and Bradford Grammar have achieved is truly impressive and we are very grateful to them for helping Register & Be A Lifesaver educate students about how they could save a life, just like Jack and Joe.”
Kevin Riley, head teacher of Bradford Grammar says, “The school motto is Hoc Age which we usually translate as ‘Just do it’. What a wonderful example Jack and Joe are of that determination to help others; I’m proud of them and the other students who have responded to the appeal.”
If you are aged 16-30 and in good health you can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register by clicking on the button below.