The number of new young Jewish stem cell donors grew sixfold in the last year, according to a charity that led recruitment efforts in the community.
The Sue Harris Trust says its campaign saw over a thousand young Jewish donors added to the register this year, marking a sharp increase since 2018’s national figures recorded only 206 new stem cell donors within the community.
The trust launched Jewish Swab Week in February for the first time, after identifying a clinical preference for younger donors. Sessions were held in Jewish secondary schools, youth movements and student societies over the course of seven days.
The week saw close to 800 donors added to the national register, while further recruitment on the Israel Tour in the summer brought the total to over 1,200, the trust said.
“We’re very encouraged by the results from the first Jewish Swab Week and excited at the prospects for achieving more in 2020”, trust secretary Lionel Salama told Jewish News.
The trust unveiled the results of its campaign at an annual talk on Monday in memory of Sue Harris, who died at the age of 34 after being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in December 1992.
The evening, hosted at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, sought to celebrate what would have been The Sue Harris Bone Marrow Campaign founder’s 57th birthday.
Following her diagnosis, the trainee solicitor searched for a compatible bone marrow donor in the community, handing out flyers in synagogues and taking out full-page advertisements in the Jewish Chronicle, helping to recruit over 15,000 Jewish people on the register.
A donor was eventually found for Harris in the United States, but with only two days to go before her transplant, she learnt the donor could not donate for medical reasons.
A second donor was later found in Germany and Harris received a successful transplant at the Hammersmith Hospital in 1995, but her leukaemia returned just six months later.
During Monday’s event, certificates of thanks were given to representatives of organisations, pictured above, that took part in the trust’s recruitment efforts, and the audience heard from stem cell donor David Gould, who spoke of his experiences.
Jewish Swab Week 2020 will run from 3 to 7 February. To take part, contact the Sue Harris Trust on 020 3793 2360.