Saving lives at uni: Here’s how you can get involved

Put down that pint and give this a read


You may have seen me and a few other friendly faces donned in Marrow merch lurking outside the Robbo, the gym or even making a cameo before your lectures. And that’s because we’re part of the Newcastle Marrow, a society at Newcastle Uni who work with a charity called Anthony Nolan. If you’ve not yet been pounced on by one of us, and haven’t heard of Anthony Nolan before – I’ll try my best to summarise all the amazing work they do.

Anthony Nolan is a charity that saves the lives of those with blood cancer and blood disorders, by providing them with a stem cell transplant.

Newcastle Marrow, along with other Marrow groups in universities across the UK, aim to recruit students onto the register to find a match for those waiting for a transplant, with last week being Hero Week, Marrow’s biggest recruitment week of the year. Newcastle also fundraised throughout the week by collaborating with other societies such as Yoga Soc and Running Club.

One person that Anthony Nolan was able to help is my friend, and Newcastle Marrow member, Vicky. When Vicky had just turned eight, she was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anaemia. She went from being an active, sporty girl to one that spent most days in hospital, and was told that if she was diagnosed any later, she would have died within two months.

While undergoing treatment and severely immunocompromised, she contracted an infection and was rushed to hospital. She was told her only option at this stage was a bone marrow transplant. Thankfully, a very good match was found quickly using the Anthony Nolan register, and this transplant saved her life.

Since being cured, she has been able to live a full, healthy life and is now a 5th year medic at Newcastle. She was able to meet her donor, Elliott, and back in 2021, they ran the London Marathon side by side. In total they raised over £18,000 for Anthony Nolan and won the Spirit of the London Marathon award.

Speaking about Marrow, Vicky said: “Anthony Nolan has been a huge part of my life, since receiving a stem cell transplant from a complete stranger at just eight years old. When I started at Newcastle Uni, I quickly found my way to Marrow to keep raising awareness for the vital work that Anthony Nolan does – to try and help the 104 other people diagnosed with a blood disorder or blood cancer everyday, and give them a second chance of life.”

Every year, 2,300 patients start their search for a matching stem cell donor. By signing up to the Anthony Nolan register, you could save one of these lives.

We spoke to second year Pharmacy student Alice Woodcock, who donated her stem cells via PBSC over the summer and was kind enough to share her experience;

“I was in the library when I got the phone call that I was a potential match. They were very friendly and went through all the information with me, and asked me if I would be willing to donate.

“The lead up to donating was very supportive. I got given a coordinator, Libby, who talked me through all the processes – not once was it overwhelming. 

“After having a chat over the phone, a nurse came round to my house and took some blood. It was a comfortable, quick and painless experience; I was just sat on my sofa with my dog. After this, they checked to see if I was definitely a match, which I was.

“Usually you would only feel a bit achy, but I did experience a fair bit of nausea. However, Anthony Nolan were very good at supporting me, so I managed to get hold of anti-sickness tablets quickly, which made me feel better.

“The day of the donation was really nice, which sounds a bit weird to say! I went to Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield with my mum, who was able to stay with me for the day. It was like being in a nice hotel – I just sat and watched a film for a few hours and was brought lots of snacks and lunch. 

“I would really recommend donating as it’s such a rewarding experience. The way I see it; it took five days for me but could give someone else with blood cancer or a blood disorder so much longer. Anthony Nolan even gave me money back for wages I would have earned while I was in the hospital, so I genuinely didn’t miss out on anything. I would 100 per cent do it again.”

Newcastle Marrow volunteers will be holding fundraising events throughout the year, with the opportunity to sign up to the register yourself. Find details about these future events on our Instagram. If Marrow is something you’d be interested in getting involved with yourself, you can join via NUSU.

Find out more information, as well as more patient and donor stories on the Anthony Nolan website.

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