DKMS has been working closely with Channel 4’s Hollyoaks on a major childhood leukaemia storyline which reaches its climax this week to support our urgent appeal for new potential lifesavers to come forward amidst falling numbers of donors as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
In tonight’s episode (6 April 2020), baby Sebastian is being prepared for an urgent bone marrow transplant, whilst his devastated parents Sienna Blake (Anna Passey) and Warren Fox (Jamie Lomas) look on, in the hope that it will give their child a second chance at life.
Hollyoaks star Anna Passey, 35, who is at the centre of the heartbreaking storyline, highlighted that blood cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK.
Anna said: “Blood cancer is something that many people don’t know a great deal about, so it’s great to get information out there and start conversations. If our storyline on Hollyoaks can do this then I think it’s a great thing.
“DKMS is a fantastic charity that is helping lots of people. Registering to be a potential blood stem cell donor is so quick and easy, and can be done without even leaving your home. DKMS have lots of information, and you may be in a position to save a life”.
Every year in the UK, over 600 children are diagnosed with a blood cancer such as leukaemia, myeloma, or lymphoma. Sebastian’s story mirrors the real-life struggle of many families dealing with a blood cancer diagnosis, such as three-year old Adeline Davidson from Inverness, who was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, an extremely rare form of blood cancer that affects only one in 250,000 children.
Seventy percent of people needing a blood stem cell transplant will not find a match within their family. Adeline’s best chance of beating the disease was to find her ‘genetic twin’: a generous stranger who registered as a blood stem cell donor.
Fortunately, Adeline was able to find her match, but her transplant has since been put on hold. With only 2% of the UK’s population on the register, and the number of new people signing up as potential donors drastically falling in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, blood cancer patients in need of a blood stem cell transplant are facing an uncertain future.
Jonathan Pearce, CEO of DKMS UK said: “We are hugely concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having on those who rely on a blood stem cell donor to save their lives. Cancer patients are having their treatment plans changed or delayed, often in ways that could have a detrimental impact on the likely success of those treatments."
“We know from our clinicians that there is a continuing need for transplants and that once the world is free of COVID-19, there will be even more transplants needed. Therefore, it’s a major concern for us that we have already seen a drastic fall in the numbers of people joining the blood stem cell register. Currently, our donor registrations are down by 50% compared to this time last year, and we are fearful that they will drop even further.
“At a time where a ray of hope is so needed, I am appealing to people for come forward and join the blood stem cell register to help people with blood cancer – we can all do this, even when we’re at home, without breaking the rules on self-isolation”.
If you’d like to register as a potential blood stem cell donor you can check your eligibility and request a home swab kit today.
Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general good health can go on standby as a potential lifesaver. If you're not eligible or you're already registered, why not check the other ways to get involved in the fight against blood cancer or help us cover donor registration costs?