Saturday, 2 January 2016

New Year Runs & Resolutions: Register as a Blood Stem Cell Donor

I got off to a good start to 2016 with two 5k parkruns under my belt before breakfast. New Year's Day is the only day in the year that it is possible to record two parkruns on the same day, so  by starting out at Peckham Rye at 9 am (as I did) it was possible to go on to join another run elsewhere in South London immediately afterwards - Hilly Fields and Dulwich parkruns were both scheduled to start at 10 am and Southwark Park at 10:30 am.

At Peckham Rye there were 183 runners including more than 70 experienced parkrunners who had never run at that location before, no doubt many of them looking to do the double and perhaps tick off a couple of locations on the parkrun tourist itinerary for those who try and get round to as many parkruns as possible. In fact I noticed that one of the runners was parkrun uber-tourist Chris Cowell, after whom the unofficial parkrun status of 'Cowell Club' was named for those who have run at least 100 different parkruns (Chris was the first to achieve this feat).

New Year's Day parkrun under way at Peckham Rye  - by Brucie_Baby from flickr group

Chris moved on from Peckham to Southwark Park, I went up to Hilly Fields where the 117 finishers including eight who had never run a parkun anywhere before - evidence perhaps of some New Year resolutions kicking in early.

Blood Stem Cell Donation

I got one of my New Year resolutions out of the way early too by starting the process of registering as a potential blood stem cell/bone marrow donor. I was listening to an interview recently on the Marathon Talk podcast with Melissa Fehr, who does the River Runner blog (she lives on a boat moored on the Thames in London so does plenty of running along the River).  To summarise Melissa's story:

'In 2008 I was running 30km a week, eating healthy, keeping slim, and planning my wedding. Within a fortnight I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without losing my breath and in July 2009 I had a bone marrow transplant to cure a rare blood disorder.

Unfortunately, my only brother was not a match for me, so the Anthony Nolan Trust put out a worldwide search to find someone with my specific genetics, and a young man from America donated his stem cells to save my life. After a grueling first 6 months, I was able to return to work and exercise, gradually regaining the fitness I'd had before the illness and chemo... and eventually surpassing "the old me"!

In October 2012 I ran my first full marathon in Amsterdam, finishing in 3:48. I ran my second in Copenhagen in May 2013, and after a severe bout of shingles interrupted my training, I still managed to finish in 3:52. In 2014 I ran the Virgin Money London marathon in 3:30 and the Berlin marathon in 3:46'.

Last September Melissa competed for Team GB in the World Transplant Games held in Argentina, and won five gold medals including setting a transplant athlete world record in 1500m

Naturally Mellisa is keen to encourage people to register as potential stem cell/bone marrow donors, as whether somebody can benefit from this life saving treatment depends entirely on finding somebody who is a genetic match for the patient. There are several routes to becoming a donor:

- the NHS British Bone Marrow Registry is open to donors aged 19-49. You must already be a blood donor, and if you wish to join should discuss it next time you give blood

- if you are aged 16-30 you can join the Anthony Nolan register, maintained by the charity.

- Delete Blood Cancer is an international charity, with a UK branch, which maintains a register open to people aged 18 to 55.

I have signed up via the latter, it only takes a couple of minutes to do so online. Next step is that they send a cheek swab which you return to them from which they obtain DNA details. Of course you only get called upon to actually make a donation if there is a patient in need who matches to you. Nowadays most donations are taken via a non surgical outpatient procedure where blood stem cells are collected from the donor’s blood stream, with only a minority requiring extracting cells from bone marrow via a syringe.

Just do it!

You can listen to Melissa at Marathon talk, her interview starts at about 54 minutes 30 seconds.

No comments:

Post a Comment