Page last updated at 06:23 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 07:23 UK

Fighting to the death for donors

By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Adrian Sudbury
Adrian Sudbury will campaign up to the end

Doctors have given Adrian Sudbury months, and possibly just weeks to live - but he is determined to spend those helping others have a chance of life.

Adrian, 26, had a bone marrow transplant after his leukaemia was diagnosed and initially all seemed to be going well, but last week doctors gave him the devastating news that his cancer is back.

He has decided to have no further therapy.

"I decided a long time ago that I did not want any more intensive therapy, but in the end the options were taken from me as I was told the success rate would be less than 20%," said Adrian, a journalist with the Huddersfield Examiner.

"They would have tried more chemo, but I think they accept and I accept it would not have worked.

"This cancer has had two cycles of chemotherapy and it is still there."

"They have said that I have just weeks to months to live, unfortunately. I am all right with this - it is a case of enjoying the time I have got left to the maximum."

Chemotherapy is horrible

Recounting his decision on his blog not to have more chemo Adrian said: "If there were no side effects, and I could have had it over a couple of hours then gone home, I might have considered it.

"I have one last little mission before I die.
I'm determined to try and educate more people about what it is like to be a bone marrow donor.
There are still 7,000 people - children and adults in the UK alone - who are waiting to find a match.
Without your help they have no hope.
At least I was given a chance"

"As anyone who has undergone chemo for leukaemia will tell you it is horrible.

"But more importantly, as it wipes out the bone marrow cells which create your immune system, you can't leave the ward until it has regenerated sufficiently. This can take up to three weeks.

"Put simply, I've had enough."

Adrian, from Sheffield, told the BBC that his own leukaemia had been unusual as he has two forms.

"I had a really strange presentation. Two types of leukaemia: A classic form of acute myeloid leukaemia and a very strange chronic form which they have never seen together before - a world first apparently."

It is this 'chronic version' that has returned.

Promoting awareness


Videos on Baldy's Blog raise awareness of bone marrow donation (contains images of injection)

Adrian is determined to use whatever time he has left to promote awareness of what it takes to be a bone marrow donor.

He is particularly keen to try to dispel some of the myths that might prevent some people from registering.

There are 7,000 children and adults in the UK alone waiting for a bone marrow donor.

But Adrian fears that some may miss out on a possible donor match because of ignorance.

He is lobbying MPs for better information campaigns particularly for young people, and his local paper has also been running a campaign. He believes information on donating bone marrow should be part of the school curriculum.

He has already met Health Secretary Alan Johnson, Schools Secretary Ed Balls, and on Wednesday he is due to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown to press his case.

Since March 2007 he has run his own award-winning online blog - Baldy's Blog - detailing his experiences and including a video clip of his own bone marrow transplant, in a bid to improve awareness.

"I want to make a lasting change by educating people," he said.

"I am going to try and do what I can."

German experience

Adrian said that in Germany, which has one of the most successful registers and where his own bone marrow came from, they have better education, talking to sixth formers about why and how they can donate bone marrow and he hopes this can be introduced in the UK.

"The problem is people think bone marrowing donation is some horrific procedure and I want to show as many people as possible that it is not like that," he said.

Adrian Sudbury
Adrian is using a blog to dispel myths surrounding donation

Adrian admits that he had been put off himself from donating bone marrow, before his illness, by misinformation.

"On a personal note I used to give blood but I never joined a bone marrow register because I thought the procedure could leave you paralysed."

"But I have had an extra year of life thanks to the kindness of a 30-year-old stranger from Germany - it's absolutely incredible."

There are two methods of donation - the more traditional bone marrow harvest and the newer, and increasingly used, peripheral blood stem cell donation (PBSC).

For a bone marrow transplant the cells are extracted from the pelvic bones under a general anaesthetic and a two-night stay in hospital .

But in PBSC there is no hospital stay needed or general or spinal anesthesia.

During the five days before the collection the donor receives daily injections of a growth factor to increase their number in the peripheral blood.

These cells can then be collected on a cell separator machine in one or two collections lasting four to five hours each, in a process known as 'apheresis'.

Doctors decide which method is most suitable.

Adrian is determined to make a difference.

"I have one last little mission before I die," he said.

"It will be hopefully my lasting legacy."

  • The Anthony Nolan Trust is holding a clinic for people who want to register for bone marrow donation on 31 May at Tiger Tiger, 28-29 Haymarket, Piccadilly, London from 1100-1600.

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