Williams F1 engineer's wife swim raises thousands for DKMS

26 July 2017

A dedicated wife took the plunge to raise awareness of her husband’s blood cancer and funds to support the work we do.

The challenge

On Saturday 22 July Joanne Thompson, 44, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, took part in the BIG Welsh Swim, an open water challenge and swam the length of lake Llyn Padarn, Snowdonia. Joanne completed the 3km swim in an hour, 25 minutes and 30 seconds.

Her motivation for doing the challenge is her husband Russ, who works for Williams, one of the world’s leading Formula One teams. He has been working for the company for the past 20 years as a stress engineer, which involves testing the cars and making sure they meet FIA's regulations.

Last August, Russ was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare form of blood disorder. To prevent the condition from progression into acute myeloid leukaemia, Russ is due to receive a blood stem cell transplant, in September, after we successfully found a matching donor.

Joanne and her husband Russ, stress engineer at Williams, one of the world’s leading Formula One teams

Personal messages from husband and wife

Joanne who has been married to Russ for 25 years said: “To witness your loved one being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition is heartbreaking. We’re so grateful to DKMS for their support in helping find Russ a matching blood stem cell donor. That’s why I wanted to give something back by raising funds for them to help register more potential lifesavers and encourage more people to sign up.”

Russ was there to watch and greet Joanne at the finish line. He said: “I’m proud of Joanne she has trained so hard - it was fantastic to see all that dedication pay off and see her cross the finish line. I’m grateful to her for supporting me every step of the way on my blood cancer journey and I will forever be grateful to the stranger that’s giving me a second chance of life – thank you.”

How you can help

Only one in three people in need of a blood stem cell transplant will find a suitable match within their own family. However, in Russ’s case and many others they will need to rely on an unrelated donor to find their match.

Anyone in the UK aged between 17-55 years and in general good health can register to become a potential lifesaver.

Joanne’s challenge has so far raised more than £3K – it’s not too late to make an online money donation.