MP celebrates community’s efforts to cure blood cancer

Lesley Laird MP and blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan have praised residents in the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency registered as stem cell donors.

Anthony Nolan’s campaign, Communities vs Blood Cancer, shines a spotlight on the vital work being done at a local level to ensure every patient in need of a stem cell transplant can find a lifesaving donor.

In Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, 1407 potential stem cell donors are registered with Anthony Nolan. 32% of these donors are male, and the average age is 32. The constituency added the 4th most donors of the Scottish Westminster constituencies last year.

Two families have had a significant role to play in the high number of potential stem cell donors joining the Anthony Nolan register.

Gary Dall, a firefighter in Kirkcaldy, was diagnosed with Myelodysplasia last year and received the news that he would need a stem cell transplant. Gary worked with his colleagues at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) to raise awareness of Anthony Nolan and recruit more people to the stem cell register including at an event at Kirkcaldy Fire Station at which 187 people joined in one day.

A matching stem cell donor was found for Gary but, unfortunately, he was too ill to proceed with the transplant and sadly died in April 2018.

The SFRS community, along with Gary’s family and friends, are determined to continue doing all they can to sign up potential donors and create a lifesaving legacy in Gary’s name.

The family of five-year-old Ava Stark from Fife have also had a huge role to play in recruiting potential donors to the Anthony Nolan register. In 2016, after months of multiple trips to the doctors, Ava was diagnosed with inherited bone marrow failure. The families public appeal for a stem cell donor went international and after hearing Ava’s story, more than 83,000 people signed up to the stem cell register.

Lesley Laird MP met Ava last year at the Anthony Nolan Supporter Awards, where Ava received the John Petchey Young Hero of the year award.

Now, Lesley is encouraging more people from Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, particularly men aged 16-30 and people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, to register as stem cell donors and make sure that a match is available for everyone in need of a transplant. While anyone on the register could be a match for someone with blood cancer, men aged 16-30 are most likely to be asked to donate. They provide more than 50% of donations yet make up just 18% of the register. There is also a shortage of donors from non-white and mixed-race backgrounds

Leslie Laird MP said: “I am very proud that Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath has 1407 people who have selflessly volunteered to give someone a second chance at life. Donating stem cells is straightforward but it could make an enormous difference to someone with no other chance of a cure.

“I am also extremely proud of the people of Fife and Scotland, especially the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, who have been incredible at rallying in support of both Gary’s and Ava’s families and raising awareness of the Anthony Nolan stem cell register.

“I strongly hope that more people from our community will be inspired to sign up and show that together, we can provide a cure for blood cancer.”

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said: “Since 1974 thousands of caring, selfless people have joined the Anthony Nolan register and thousands of lives have been saved as a result.

“Residents can be proud of all the lifesavers in your community. It’s also wonderful to have the support of both Gary Dall’s and Ava Stark’s families in achieving our goal of saving and improving the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders.”

For more information about the Community vs Blood Cancer campaign visit www.anthonynolan.org/communities