SFRS and MSP back Anthony Nolan bid to recruit new stem cell donors in Inverness

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Firefighters from White Watch signed up to Anthony Nolan's bone marrow register today to support the family of Brora nurse Michaela Ballantyne who has a rare blood condition

Anthony Nolan Pic 1 Will Ford (30) White Watch

Inverness White Watch firefighter Will Ford (30) signs up to the Anthony Nolan register at Eastgate Shopping Centre in the Highland capital today with the organisation's Amy Bartlett

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) firefighters in Inverness are backing an Anthony Nolan campaign to attract new stem cell donors which it’s hoped will save the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders.

Firefighters teamed up with Rhoda Grant MSP and the family of Michaela Ballantyne (a young nurse from Brora who was recently diagnosed with Myelodysplasia (MDS), a blood disorder which affects the production of bone marrow) to highlight the need for people to donate stem cells.

Anthony Nolan is a charity whose work involves finding life-saving matches for patients with illnesses like leukaemia.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service firefighters have been working in partnership with the charity since 2009, organising events that have seen over 5,000 potential stem cell donors join the Anthony Nolan Register.

Firefighters joined MSP Rhoda Grant and Michaela at the Eastgate Centre in Inverness to encourage members of the public to sign up. Indeed, firefighters who were at today's event, including White Watch's Will Ford, signed up to the register and then encouraged others to do the same.

Over recent weeks a number of events have been organised to raise awareness of Michaela’s situation. Today’s event ran between 2pm and 5.30pm at the Eastgate Centre and then outside Little Italy in Stephen’s Brae from 5.30pm until 7.30pm.

Along with representatives of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service were Amy Bartlett from Anthony Nolan, Rhoda Grant MSP and the family of Michaela Ballantyne. All were there to encourage people between the ages of 16-30 to sign up to the Anthony Nolan register to help Michaela and others in a similar situation.

SFRS Group Manager Fraser Nixon said: “Anthony Nolan is our official charity partner and SFRS staff across Scotland have recruited thousands of potential stem cell donors, leading to a chance of life for at least eleven people with conditions like leukaemia.

“We are delighted to be involved in the event here in Inverness as we recognise the important work Anthony Nolan does. We stand with Michaela and Rhoda Grant MSP in encouraging people to join the register. I was myself on the register for a number of years and we will be encouraging as many of our eligible staff as possible to join.”

Inverness Watch Manager Miles Stubbs today invited Amy to come along to the station in Inverness soon and encourage more of the city's firefighters to sign up.

Highland Council, Police Scotland, NHS Highland and Scottish Natural Heritage have also been supportive and have drawn the issue to the attention of their staff.

A Facebook page has been set up to help raise awareness of Michaela’s situation which can be accessed by clicking on this link - https://www.facebook.com/Michaelas-Bone-Marrow-Plea-789167411198344/timeline/

People aged 16-30 can join the register online at www.anthonynolan.org/sfrs or by attending the above event

Key messages

  • Anthony Nolan was the world’s first bone marrow register. The blood cancer charity has been saving lives for four decades by matching remarkable people willing to donate their bone marrow to patients in desperate need of a transplant.
  • We need more young men aged 16-30 to sign up, as they are most likely to be chosen to donate but make up just 12% of the register.
  • We urgently need people from Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority backgrounds to sign up, as they are currently under-represented on the register.

Key statistics

  • Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer
  • Around 2,000 people in the UK need a bone marrow (or stem cell) transplant each year.  This is usually their last chance of survival
  • 63% of UK patients will not find a matching donor from within their families; instead they turn to us to find them an unrelated donor
  • We can only find a perfect match for 60% of transplant patients
  • 90% of donations take place via PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection).  This is an outpatient appointment and is similar to donating blood
  • To join the register, you must be aged between 16 and 30, weigh more than 7st 12lbs (50kgs) and be in general good health. For more information about our work or to sign up online, please visit www.anthonynolan.org

Anthony Nolan Pic 3 Will Ford (30) White Watch

Firefighter Will Ford with Rhoda Grant MSP (right) and Brora nurse Michaela Ballantyne, who was recently diagnosed with Myelodysplasia (MDS), a blood disorder which affects the production of bone marrow

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