THE BLOG

Students Spitting to Save Lives

23/10/2015 09:48 BST | Updated 20/10/2016 10:12 BST

"Wait. Students are saving lives by spitting?" Yes, really, and it's not as weird as it may sound at first...

On a campus near you, student volunteers are busy asking fellow students to spit in a tube, or 'spit kit'.

These students aren't weird spit chasers; they're a group called Marrow, a network of student volunteer groups which supports blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan by signing up young people to the stem cell and bone marrow donor register. This is done by simply filling out a short form and providing a saliva sample.

As you'll have seen from my previous blogs, my blood cancer diagnosis and treatment plan means I'm one of around 2,000 people in the UK who need a bone marrow (or stem cell) transplant from a stranger every year. Anthony Nolan uses its list of selfless donors to match people like me who need a transplant.

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So what is it that students do every day? Party all night, sleep till midday, miss lectures they're paying thousands in fees for? Well, I have to tell you that the stereotype does definitely not fit all.

In this competitive job market, students who've worked hard for a few years to achieve a good degree classification are being told by potential employers - "Right, you have a degree, what else have you done?" But there are many students out there who manage to achieve much more outside of their degree.

By volunteering for Marrow, students across the UK really are making a difference outside of their degree. These students can happily say at the end of the day that they did much more than just laze about; they can say that they helped to save many people's lives and give people like me hope.

By raising awareness, funds and signing other students up to the donor register, Marrow plays a vital role in Anthony Nolan's work. This role cannot be underestimated.

The charity recently revealed that 1 in 4 donors in the last two years were recruited at university (27% of the 841 unrelated stem cell donations that have occurred in UK since 2013). This means that Marrow has given 227 strangers in desperate need of a transplant the chance of life in the last two years.

Student volunteers did this - how amazing is that?

Just by being themselves, students make for ideal bone marrow or stem cell donors. This is because young people are less likely to suffer from health complications that can stop people donating.

Young males in particular are the best possible donors, but make up just 15% of the donor register, so signing up young people while they're at university is of vital importance. Every student that Marrow signs up has the potential to save someone who is suffering from blood cancer, just like me.

When I was first diagnosed, my local group Aberdeen Marrow were quick to contact me and were determined to support me from the very beginning. Only a few weeks later, at the beginning of July, they held their first donor clinic in my name and managed to sign up an amazing 52 people to the donor register. I remember being completely blown away by the success of the event. It was incredible to me that students were genuinely willing to take time out of their holidays to help me, and potentially, even find the one person who I desperately needed - my match, my lifesaver.

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Getting my diagnosis was such a shock. It left me completely reeling, and I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I couldn't go back to work, and I knew that I wouldn't be going back to university, so it felt like I had nothing left, no focus in my life anymore; I felt emptiness. Working with these students and Anthony Nolan really helped to fill that void, and find something positive in such an awful situation.

The support I've had from my fellow students, and knowing that there are groups of selfless student volunteers across the UK doing the same, has given me hope that not only will I find a donor, but that everyone in need of a bone marrow transplant will have a better chance to find the perfect match.

I would encourage all the students out there to join a Marrow group. I know that fitting things around studies can be difficult, but by joining Marrow you can really be part of something special. Everything that Marrow does - every person that they sign up, and every penny that they raise - ripples out to help so many people.

It's not every day that you can say that you helped save someone's life, is it? With Marrow, you're saving people's lives all the time. Whenever you volunteer your time, you're really making a difference, and that's definitely something you can be proud of once you graduate. These students really do 'give a spit' (sorry).

Fellow students, please join this lifesaving revolution in any way you can - spit, share, volunteer and raise funds. Thank you.