Sheffield University student Thomas Cox is campaigning to recruit more potential donors to the stem cell donor register after he donated his stem cells in an attempt to save a stranger’s life.
Thomas initially joined the Anthony Nolan bone marrow donor register in July 2014 when Sheffield Marrow – a volunteering society registering stem cell donors and raising funds for Anthony Nolan – gave a talk to his medical society.
Medical student Thomas, 22, says, ‘I wanted to join the register because the idea of potentially saving someone’s life through such a relatively straightforward method was really appealing. I registered my details, gave a sample of my spit, and went on with my normal life.
‘When I signed up I wasn’t expecting to be chosen to donate as I knew the chances were slim – about 1 in 900 for most people, although it’s 1 in 200 for men under 30. But a year later I was asked to submit some blood samples for further testing. That’s when I knew I might be expected to donate one day.’
Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan uses its register to match potential bone marrow donors to blood cancer patients in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.
Thomas was found to be a match for a stranger and donated his bone marrow in July 2016. He was one of the very first people to be tissue typed by Third Generation Sequencing – pioneering new technology that means Anthony Nolan can examine an entire gene in one go, to a higher level of accuracy than ever before and hopefully lead to better outcomes for patients.
Thomas says, ‘The donation was really simple and actually went by quite quickly. Everybody from start to finish was so helpful and welcoming, so I was just able to sit back and relax, watch a film and before I knew it the process was over. Sitting comfortably in bed for 4 hours is a really small price to pay for the difference it can make to somebody’s life and I’d actively encourage anybody who can to join the register.’
Thomas, who is going into his fifth year of medicine at Sheffield University, is now volunteering with Sheffield Marrow group to recruit more students to Anthony Nolan’s bone marrow register. Since September 2015, Sheffield Marrow has recruited 1500 potential donors.
Thomas says, ‘Young men, like me, make up only 15% of our register but provide more than half of all donations. I’m urging more young men to sign up as we do not have enough representation on the register. However, everyone can get involved and spread the message of Anthony Nolan.’
Charlotte Cunliffe, Marrow Recruitment Manager at Anthony Nolan, says, ‘We are delighted that Thomas and the volunteers at Sheffield Marrow are recruiting healthy young students as bone marrow donors. We know that young people are most likely to be chosen to donate. Sheffield Marrow’s work makes such a big difference. They really do help us to save lives and that is an incredible thing.’
If you are 16-30, and in good health, you can join the register online at www.anthonynolan.org.
To find out more about Sheffield Marrow, go to www.facebook.com/SheffieldMarrow/ or tweet @SheffieldMarrow