Demand for stem cell donors after drop in number of Scots signing up

A blood cancer charity said there is an urgent need for new donors to give people a 'second chance at life'.

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Scots are being urged to register as stem cell donors to help people with blood cancer after a drop in the number of people signing up.

Organisers at DKMS said the centre continues to feel the “aftershocks” of the pandemic which saw lifesaving registrations in Glasgow plummet by 45% compared to 2020.

The charity said there is an urgent need to help meet the demand to give people with blood cancer a “second chance at life”.

Only one in four people with blood cancer will find a matching blood stem cell donor within their own family, which means that those in need of a transplant must rely on the “kindness of strangers”.

Sarah Howitt from Glasgow, registered with DKMS after seeing a social media campaign.

She was only on the register for a year before she got the call to say she could be someone’s match.

“As soon as you know you are someone’s only chance it’s really a no brainer,” Ms Howitt said.

“You just have to put aside any hesitancy and go for it.

“Anyone thinking about it shouldn’t wait, because it isn’t difficult and the whole process of donating is straightforward and you could make such a difference.

“We all have it in us to help save someone’s life.

“I recently found out that I donated my blood stem cells to a little girl in the Czech Republic and that she is doing okay and out of hospital.

“It’s an incredible feeling and I would encourage any that can register to do so.”

Lindsay Savage, also from Glasgow, said she had not heard about blood stem cell donations until she saw something online.

Ms Savage lost her mum to stomach cancer within three weeks of her diagnosis when she was 20-years-old.

She said she could relate and empathise with the people she was reading about with blood cancer and their families as a result.

When she learnt there was something she could do to help, she registered straight away and was later identified as a potential match for someone.

Ms Savage said: “It was a very surreal thing hearing that I was a match for someone.

“As soon as I found out I was completely invested in doing this for whoever it was. I donated through a peripheral blood stem cell donation.

“I was surprised by myself to be honest about how little I was bothered by the process.

“It is an unusual thing to be in hospital when you’re not visiting someone or in there for yourself.

“You feel like you’re part of a process that is nothing to do with you but you’re also a vital part of it at the same time.

“A lot of people told me it was amazing that I’d donated my stem cells but the amazing part is simply signing up to the register.

“It gives other families hope. It’s the registering to make yourself available as a lifesaver in waiting, extending out that hand in the dark in case anyone needs you – that’s the special part.”

Reshna Radiven, head of communications and engagement, DKMS UK, said: “This is deeply worrying.

“We have witnessed a huge decrease in registrations since the pandemic took hold.

“With only one in four people finding a match within their family, thousands of blood cancer patients rely on the kindness of a stranger.

“We urgently need more people to come forward and register, because the more people we have on the blood stem cell register, the more chance there is of our patients finding that perfect match.

“By signing up, you could be giving someone a second chance at life.”