Last Friday, 23 pupils at Shawlands Academy in Glasgow pledged to save a stranger’s life, by joining the Anthony Nolan register.
For the teenagers, signing up just involved spitting into a tube, but the effects of their decision could be life-changing – one day, between now and when they turn 60, any of these pupils could be called upon to donate their stem cells to someone in desperate need of a transplant.
One of the first pupils to sign up at the Anthony Nolan event was Adam, who said: “I couldn’t believe how easy it was to sign up, and yet any of us could be that one perfectly matched donor that someone is waiting for. I’d be honoured to help if I ever did come up as a match.”
Young people are in urgent demand as stem cell donors, as research shows they are the most likely to save a life and have better outcomes for patients.
Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is working with Glasgow City Council to educate 16 to18-year-olds about how they can save lives by donating stem cells as well as blood and organs.
The council is helping the charity to implement its established ‘Register & Be a Lifesaver’ education programme , by reaching out to selected schools across the city – including Shawlands Academy, as well as Rosshall and St Paul’s earlier in the summer.
Amy Bartlett, regional register development manager at Anthony Nolan, said: “Shawlands’ students have today shown that young people in Scotland do have the selflessness and the maturity to save lives, once they’re informed about how easy it is to join the Anthony Nolan register.
“This is the first time we’ve partnered with a council in this way in order to spread our lifesaving message, and we hope this will be the first step towards rolling out a nationwide ‘Register & Be a Lifesaver’ programme, ensuring all 16-18-year-olds in Scotland have the opportunity to learn more about donating stem cells, blood and organs.”
The pioneering partnership with Glasgow City Council came about thanks to the tireless campaigning of local mum Noreen Siddiqui, whose daughter Ayesha has been searching for a stem cell or bone marrow donor since April 2011, when she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Just recently, we announced that Ayesha is finally having her transplant thanks to a generous stranger - and the public have started posting ‘warrior selfies’ to wish Ayesha luck during her recovery.
Shawlands’ young people stepped up to the plate today, posing with their ‘spit kits’ and posting ‘warrior selfies’ to raise Ayesha’s spirits.
Noreen Siddiqui said: “It’s been a rollercoaster of a week, with Ayesha finally receiving her long-awaited stem cell transplant and beginning her road to recovery. Seeing these selfless Glasgow teenagers joining the Anthony Nolan register just days later means a great deal to us all, as any one of them could end up saving the life of a child like Ayesha in the future.
“I’m very grateful to the council for being so supportive to the idea when I first approached them and told them all about our vision of educating young people all over Scotland, through the Register & Be a Lifesaver programme.”
Register & Be a Lifesaver was the vision of Adrian Sudbury, a young journalist with leukaemia who believed that young people should be given the facts about registering as donors, to help them make an informed choice.
Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education Services at Glasgow City Council, said: “I’m thrilled that Shawlands, St Paul’s and Rosshall have got involved in this initiative.
“What makes our scheme in Glasgow so unique is that it’s being driven by the young people themselves, empowering them to make their own lifesaving decisions about stem cell, blood and organ donation.
“The model is focused around Anthony Nolan’s volunteers visiting these S6 pupils to give talks and run recruitment events, while building young people’s leadership skills by [add details]. If successful, we hope this could provide a model for other schools and councils to work towards across Scotland.”