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Marrow Society: Miracles can be simple

How  To Save A Life: Step 1. Spit. Step 2. Resume studying.

It can be that simple, as I found out when I attended an enlighten­ing event in the Draper’s Lounge. As President Anja Bosio said: “You can have a direct impact, save a life without getting up from your library desk.”

Donor Recruitment Co-ordinator and 2nd year Biomedical student Bosio was kind enough to explain the wonders of the work of Mar­row, which is a society founded on the very core of that word: it seeks to connect people. This is a human movement that enables sufferers not only to survive, but to thrive.

Marrow is a network of student groups across forty universities, one of which is a joint society be­tween Queen Mary and Barts. It is a project run by Anthony Nolan, a charity whose mission is to com­bat blood cancer and disorders. A simplified synopsis of blood can­cer is that it wipes out the immune system. Stem cell and marrow transplants can tackle this and be victorious.

One in five of those who send off a spit sample are found to be a match for a sufferer. The sam­ple is sent off to Anthony Nolan, where it is tested for a tissue type match. Essentially, all cells contain the same genome that is specific to you, your ‘’code’’, and this is what is analysed. That match can help save a life in another country as well as here, where 4,800 lives were lost in 2012.

This year, ethnic minorities, spe­cifically the black/Afro-Caribbe­an community, are being targeted as there are simply not enough do­nations from these demographics, ergo affecting who can and cannot be saved. It is currently a “Cauca­sian cause”. This needs to change. Students of all backgrounds are prime candidates, aged between 16 and 30, and 1 in 100 go on to donate.

So, you’ve come this far. Here is the less simple Step 3: A blood do­nation, for stem cells, as in 90% of cases, or surgery for bone marrow. The former can take 3-5 hours. The latter has been described as inducing no more pain than a rigorous session at the gym, a relatively blissful task for a donor compared to the agonies battled by patients.

Leukaemia is an agonisingly in­famous blood cancer, which stole the life of two year old Margot Martini in October. She was di­agnosed with lymphoblastic and acute myeloid leukaemia at four­teen months old, and a world-wide search profited a partial match that was devastatingly defeated by an aggressive relapse. If a perfect match had been found, her life may have been won.

I’ve repeated the word ‘simple’ in this article, perhaps inadvertently making a certain Russian meerkat a mascot of Marrow. But serious­ly:

The process of spitting into a test-tube is simple. Taking the chance and providing a sample is simple. The consequences are profound.

Giving blood or, less commonly, undergoing surgery, may seem like complex choices to make if you prove to be a match, and they are decidedly, undoubtedly serious, but simply miraculous.

Contact: qmbl@ukmarrow.org

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