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Graduation hero gives life chance to cancer sufferer

20 Jul 2012

A University of Manchester student who graduates today (July 20) has given a leukaemia patient the chance of a new life by donating blood stem cells to him.

Sam White
Sam White

Sam White, 23, one of only a handful of people to be called upon twice by the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, went through the four-hour procedure while studying for his final year in modern languages.

The last Manchester student to graduate this year, Sam was second time lucky when Anthony Nolan said he was a match, after just four years.

As donations are anonymous, he will find out if the young male patient survives next year.

According to the charity, it is very unusual for a donor to be called on as a match so quickly after joining, and even more so to come up as a potential match twice in such a short period.

French and Spanish student Sam said: “I am not the greatest fan of needles, and the drugs you take to produce extra blood stem cells for the donation make you ache.

“But it is nothing compared to what the patient is going through. And the procedure wasn’t bad enough to stop me working – I had to, it was during the Easter break of my final year.

“I’m giving the chance of life, not saving a life – people have to do a lot to do that, I am just an element that helps it happen. There are a lot of people working really hard, doing an important job, making it happen. I was just lucky to be able to help.”

Only half of the people, who need a lifesaving transplant will be able to find a match on the Anthony Nolan register.

Sam, who now fundraises for the charity, aims to encourage others to join -especially young men aged 18-30, as they make the best donors and provide the best outcomes for people with blood cancer. However, young men only make up 11% of the entire register.

Sam was having dinner in halls with pals in 2007, when they were visited by young medics taking blood samples for the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, as part of a University-organised drive.

The charity runs the UK’s largest blood stem cell register and provides matches for people who need a lifesaving transplant.

He was contacted as a potential match out the blue in 2009, feeling first euphoria then disappointment when he learned he was not the best donor for the patient.

But a second letter in December 2011 did result in a match, resulting in a donation in March 2012.

The chances of being a match for a patient with blood cancer vary according to the donor’s tissue type, as some matches are more common than others.

Doctors followed a new procedure in which Sam took a course of injections for four days to increase his blood stem cell production.

Described as a ‘hero’ by his tutor by Dr Floriane Place-Verghnes, he added: “Another donor at my procedure had been on the register for 23 years – as long as I have been alive – and there I was, having had two letters.

“I would definitely recommend it. It is minimal effort and you could help someone live a longer, healthier life, spending more time with their family and friends, which is pretty special.”

Charlotte Connolly, recruitment manager at Anthony Nolan, said: “Donors like Sam gives people with blood cancer the chance of life. Unfortunately Anthony Nolan can only find a matching donor for half the people who desperately need a transplant so we are thrilled that Sam is continuing to support the charity in helping us raise awareness of this need.”

Notes for editors

Sam Graduates  at 2.30pm at the University of Manchester, Whitworth Hall, Oxford Road, Manchester.

Images will be available

For media enquiries contact:
Mike Addelman
Press Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567

For more information about Anthony Nolan contact:
Lizzie D’Angelo
020 7424 6619
07825 937 921

Anthony Nolan uses the register to match volunteers willing to donate their blood stem cells (or bone marrow) to people in desperate need of a lifesaving transplant. There are nearly 1,600 people in the UK in need of a blood stem cell transplant which is usually their last chance of survival. To find out more, visit