Hundreds join bone marrow register at ACLT in memory of Kevin Kararwa
Hundreds of people have come forward to join the bone marrow register following the death of leukaemia patient Kevin Kararwa.
The 24-year-old business student launched the #KillLeukaemia4Kevin campaign to save others from the life-threatening cancer after doctors gave him two weeks to live.
ACLT co-founder Beverley De-Gale OBE explains how to join the bone marrow register
His final wishes were to raise £24,000 for the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) and inspire 2,400 people to join the bone marrow register - 100 for every year he lived.
Speaking from his hospital bed four days before his death, Mr Kararwa said: "Most people are not aware that ethnic minorities struggle to find bone marrow transplants.
"I would like to be the catalyst in creating awareness like never before."
To show solidarity to the campaign The Wimbledon Guardian's Nick Hitchens and Louisa Clarence-Smith visited the ACLT centre in Garnett Road, Croydon, to join the register.
Signing up simply involves filling out a form with personal details and taking a cheek swab sample.
The saliva sample is then sent off to Delete Blood Cancer UK where it will be added to the UK bone marrow register.
ACLT co-founder Beverley De-Gale OBE said: "Bone marrow matching is like a genetic fingerprint - you inherit your bone marrow type from your parents, which is why it is race-related and there are tens of thousands of different bone marrow types."
The UK register is made up of about 900,000 people, of which 99.9 per cent are White British.
Mrs De-Gale said: "Because the numbers for the other ethnic minorities are so low, people of those ethnicities who need a bone marrow match have a much lower chance of finding donors and so we exist to try and increase those odds."
Before giving the sample new members are told about the process in full and asked to ensure they would be willing to give their stem cells should a match be found.
Commonly believed to be a complicated operation, the most common form of bone marrow donation is similar to giving blood, except it can take up to four hours.
For four days before the donation, a nurse will visit the donor at their home to give them a small injection to stimulate stem cells in the blood to try and ensure there are enough for the patient.
On the fifth day the donor will go into hospital to donate stem cells, taken via a needle from the vein in one arm, while blood is given back to a donor via a needle in the other arm.
The needles are then removed, plasters are put over the wounds and donors can leave and get on with their lives as usual, although they might have flu-like symptoms.
All of those stem cells are then taken by courier to the patient's hospital.
In 10 per cent of cases this method is not possible and marrow is extracted via a needle from the hip bone while the patient is under a general anaesthetic.
To find your nearest donor drive, visit aclt.org
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