Students help set a new record for Leicestershire lifesavers

Students have played a vital role in helping Leicestershire have the highest percentage of people on the UK stem cell register in the country.

Leicestershire’s life-saving status was confirmed by the charity Anthony Nolan to the Rik Basra Leukaemia Trust, which has campaigned tirelessly to recruit more people to the register since a match saved Rik’s life while he was battling blood cancer.

Rik picture

The news came at the launch of Leicestershire UNItes, a joint campaign by the University of Leicester, Loughborough University and De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) to run regular drives to encourage more young people to sign up.

Rik said: “The big hearted community of Leicester and Leicestershire have shown yet again that they can step up when those less fortunate than them are in need. I’m so incredibly proud of the work that we have done together with our many partners including DMU, Leicester and Loughborough and the many sixth form colleges that have pushed Leicestershire to the position of the stem cell capital of the UK.”

Research shows the use of donors under 30 is associated with a trend towards better survival rates so teaming up with universities gives the best chance of finding potential lifesavers.

Henny Braund, Chief Executive at Anthony Nolan, said: “It’s incredible Leicestershire now has more potential lifesavers than anywhere else in the UK. The tireless efforts of the Rik Basra Leukaemia Trust and university volunteers have contributed to this wonderful achievement. The team can be proud of a remarkable legacy that will give a second chance of life to those in desperate need for many years to come”

Thousands of DMU students and staff are on the UK stem cell register thanks to events held on campus with #DMUlocal and De Montfort Students’ Union - and at least five people are known to have been a match for people with blood cancer.

One of them is Karla Juerges, who is Schools and Colleges Recruitment Manager. Last year she discovered she was a match for a young girl with blood cancer.

She said: “I had joined such a long time ago that I had forgotten about it almost, and then I got a letter from Anthony Nolan last year telling me I was a match. It was humbling to find out that my doing something which took just minutes years ago could save someone’s life.”

University of Leicester and Loughborough University have both beaten that total. In March 2017, Loughborough signed up more than 2,000 setting a new UK record.

Professor Steve Rothberg, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research at Loughborough University, received a life-saving stem cell donation through Anthony Nolan after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in 2009.

He commented: “It is fantastic that Leicestershire has been officially announced as top in the country for the number of people on the stem cell register. Anthony Nolan found me a donor and saved my life, and it has been a great privilege to give something back and be part of this campaign to recruit more donors.

“At Loughborough University’s stem cell donor recruitment drive last year we signed up a record breaking 2,056 people to Anthony Nolan register in just one day. A fantastic achievement and one we are all incredibly proud of.”

* Find out more about joining the stem cell register
* Want to help people across the city? Join #DMUlocal
* Leicestershire's three universities join forces to fight blood cancer

The University of Leicester is planning to host its Leicestershire UNItes stem cell drive later this year.

Professor Paul Boyle, President & Vice-Chancellor University of Leicester said:   “At our sign-up for the stem-cell register in 2016 we recruited over 1,600 new potential donors which is a record. The event also celebrated seven unsung heroes, who were chosen to receive a Leicester Hero Award.  We are absolutely thrilled that the Leicester Heroes event has resulted in us breaking the record number of sign-ups to the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register in one drive. I couldn’t be more proud of the volunteers, staff and students who have helped to make the event a success.

“Rik's efforts to raise awareness of Leukaemia and the lifesaving gift of joining the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register have been inspirational. We are thrilled that students at Leicester have been able to contribute towards Leicestershire having the most people on the national stem cell register, it’s the first time that the title has been held by a place other than London.”

The announcement was made yesterday as hundreds of students signed up to join the register at DMU’s Leicestershire UNItes drive. Students came from across the campus to join the register.

Second year student Chloe Houston had her own special reason to join. She said: “A girl I used to babysit had leukaemia and I spent a lot of time sitting in hospital visiting her, so when I found out this was to help people with leukaemia I volunteered."

Posted on: Tuesday 06 February 2018

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