Patient Story

Register for John: a community's rally for hope

A community's unified effort to help John find a stem cell match and advance healthcare equality.


This past weekend, DKMS was a part of an important event, held at the Legacy Centre of Excellence in Birmingham. It was not just a call to action but a powerful display of communities coming together for a common cause.

A sobering reality for ethnic minorities

John O’Connor, a 52-year-old man from Telford, has Sezary syndrome, a rare type of lymphoma. His journey has involved not only navigating through cancer but also the challenge of finding a matching stem cell donor. John's Jamaican heritage significantly narrows his chances of finding a match, highlighting a pressing issue within our healthcare system—the stark disparity in donor matches for patients from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The statistics are sobering. Every 20 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with blood cancer. However, patients of African Caribbean heritage like John have only half the chance of finding a matching donor compared to those from white European backgrounds. This Birmingham event, therefore, wasn't just about finding a match for John but also about addressing these disparities.

A person swabbing
John and his twin

Uniting for a cause

Hosted by the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT), the event saw three blood cancer charities unite to register stem cell donors ACLT, DKMS UK and Race Against Blood Cancer. The goal was clear: to register donors, dispel myths about the donation process, and ultimately, find a match for John and others in need.

Sabrina Jarrett, National Development Manager for ACLT, said: “We work tirelessly every day to help patients like John find a matching donor. ACLT is committed to the belief that no one should die waiting for a donor and that ethnicity should not determine survival chances. John and others like him depend on the Black community's generosity to unite and make a difference. It takes a village, and together, we can achieve remarkable things.”

Sophia Oriolowo, DKMS spokesperson, added: “Over the weekend, more than 200 people registered as stem cell donors at events in Birmingham for John O'Connor and in Bristol for Ellis Joseph, both of African Caribbean heritage. Nevertheless, there's still much work to do in engaging communities and dispelling myths about blood cancer and stem cell donation.”

How you can help

Our thanks to everyone who got involved, in particular the ACLT for hosting. To those who joined us in Birmingham, thank you. Your action is a beacon of hope. For those yet to register, let John's story inspire you. You could be the match that offers someone a second chance at life.

Together, let's continue to rally for John and the many others waiting for their match. It takes only a small step to make a monumental difference.

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