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MP backs Bramley girl’s blood cancer awareness campaign

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves is calling on people in the city to support the fight against blood cancer by registering with blood cancer charity DKMS.   

Ms Reeves first heard about DKMS’s lifesaving work in March when her constituent  Allison Brown, mum of DKMS patient Hannah Richardson, contacted her.  

Rachel and Allison had initially scheduled a meeting for March but had to delay it due to the global Coronavirus pandemic.  

Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer, such as leukaemia. Together, blood cancers are the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK. Yet, only 2% of the population is registered as potential blood stem cell donors. 

Hannah, from Bramley, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) in 2016 when she was an 11-month-old. ALL is a form of cancer that affects the cells in the bone marrow.  

Following two years of treatment at Leeds General Infirmary, all seemed well for the toddler up until last December. Hannah caught chickenpox, at the age of 4, and was eventually placed on a ventilator to assist with her breathing.  

Sadly, things got worse for Hannah when she lost the sight in her left eye, following the discovery of a mass behind her retina.  

Hannah’s acute lymphocytic leukaemia is currently being treated by maintenance cancer treatment. This means that although a blood stem cell transplant isn’t being actively pursued right now, she might still need one shortly.  

Currently 2,000 people in need UK every year require a blood stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor. However, DKMS revealed that just 6,957 people from Leeds have registered as potential blood stem cell donors with their charity.  

This static and Hannah’s story prompted Rachel Reeves to press ahead with a Zoom meeting with Allison, with the Leeds West MP committing to urge more people to register as potential lifesavers.  

Rachel Reeves said:

“I commend Allison for bringing this compelling issue to my attention. Although her daughter Hannah is doing well at the moment, Allison has unselfishly found the time to raise the critical need for more blood stem cell donors for others in desperate need.  

“I will support this campaign, and I’m calling on as many people as possible from our great city to register with DKMS.”  

Allison Brown said:

“I take my hat off to Rachel Reeves. She was keen to meet me in March, and even though we couldn’t meet in person at that time, Hannah’s wellbeing is still fresh in her mind.  

“If she can use her platform to help spread the word that would be a huge help to patients with a blood cancer or a blood disorder, especially a year to the day when we Hannah went into ICU (intensive care unit).” 

If you are age 17-55 and in good general health, you can support Hannah and others like her registering online at www.dkms.org.uk/register-now for your home swab kit. You’ll join a group of over 765,000 other potential lifesavers already registered to help give someone a second chance of life.   

If you are called upon to be a match for someone, there are two donation methods. Around 90% of all donations are made through a process called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection. This method is very similar to giving blood. It involves blood being taken from one of the donor’s arms and a machine separates the blood stem cells from it. The donor’s blood is then returned to them through their other arm. This is an outpatient procedure that is usually completed in 4-6 hours.  

In just 10% of cases, donations are made through bone marrow collection. Bone marrow is taken from the pelvic bone under general anaesthetic and this lasts around an hour. 

It costs £40 to register one potential blood stem cell donor. DKMS relies on monetary donations to help cover this cost. Whilst the NHS is very supportive, it falls to charities like ours to reach out and recruit those potential lifesavers.  

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