A Harrogate schoolboy receiving treatment for leukaemia is urging people to do two things that could save the lives of people like him.
Harry Brown, 17, says that donating blood and signing up to the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register could make the difference between life and death for hundreds of patients, and is calling on anyone eligible to volunteer.
Harry, a sixth former at St Aidan’s CE High School, was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in July this year, and has been receiving intense chemotherapy and immunotherapy at the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at St James’s Hospital in Leeds.
He told the Stray Ferret:
“Unfortunately, I still have some disease left, so will need a stem cell transplant to achieve a cure. This is providing we manage to find a suitable donor.
“I therefore feel it is incredibly important that the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register is promoted to as wide an audience as possible as signing up is something very simple that anyone aged 16 to 30 can do but might just save the life of someone with blood cancer like me.
“I also feel that the issue of blood donation requires increased awareness and promotion as I have received countless life-saving platelet and blood transfusions, which can only happen if people donate.
“My message is that you can do something extraordinary – you can save a life by doing two simple things which can make such a huge difference to people like me.”
In the UK, there is a long-standing shortage of blood donors. According to NHS Blood and Transplant, 140,000 new donors are needed each year just to meet demand.
But the rewards are incalculable – in just one hour, a blood donor can save three lives.
Nine out of 10 people joining the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register who donate their stem cells do so through their blood within just a few hours; the other 10% donate by giving bone marrow.
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Before his diagnosis, Harry played the tuba with Tewit Youth Band and volunteered as a Young Leader with 16th Harrogate Scouts, as well as studying for A levels in English language and literature, geography and politics. But he is now taking a break from school while he concentrates on dealing with leukaemia, with the support of his family, friends, and St Aidan’s.
He says that illnesses such as ALL are not just “something that happens to other people”. He said:
“I just felt a bit sick and off-colour, but within a week I’d been diagnosed with ALL.
“Unfortunately, it can happen to anyone when you least expect it. I went from climbing up volcanoes on a school trip to Iceland one week to having an emergency procedure to remove my white blood cells the next.
“Having a cancer diagnosis when you’re young is hard; it tips your life upside-down, and there’s no getting away from that. There were some days where I wondered whether I would have the energy to make it through the day, particularly when I was on daily chemotherapy. But it was people like my clinical nurse specialist and the youth support coordinator who picked me up and motivated me to keep fighting it, one cell at a time.
“It also puts a whole new perspective on life and what is important, and it makes me more determined to see a future where nobody, especially children, has to experience the gruelling treatment of cancer.”