Crawley doctor urges residents to save the life of a stranger
A Crawley doctor is encouraging local people to help save the life of someone with blood cancer.
Dr Pria Suchak, 31, initially registered with blood cancer charity DKMS last July, when she was inspired by a message on social media.
Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer – those that affect the body's bone marrow, blood or lymphatic system - such as leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma.
Yet, only two per cent of the UK population are registered as potential blood stem cell donors.
Pria said: “My friend’s nephew had leukaemia, so she was using her Facebook page to encourage strangers to sign up him.
"Her nephew is of mixed heritage - half Chinese and half Caucasian. So she was trying to encourage more people for minority ethnic communities to sign up.
"I wanted to help give someone a second chance of life, so I signed up with DKMS, and my husband registered at the same time.”
Patients from black, Asian or other minority backgrounds have a 20 per cent chance of finding the best possible blood stem cell match from an unrelated donor, compared to 69 per cent for northern European backgrounds.
Pria ordered a home swab kit in July 2020 and was contacted by DKMS just five months later, informing her that she was a potential match for a stranger in need of a lifesaving blood stem cell transplant.
The mum-of-two said: “I received a call from a lady at DKMS. She said I was extremely close to being a match, but there were also eight other people who were identified as possible matches too.
"A few weeks later, I received another call from DKMS saying that I was the best match out of the nine potential donors.
"I didn’t expect that. As it was nine of us in total, you never expect you'll be chosen.”
Following further tests and a medical examination, a date was set for Pria to donate her blood stem cells by peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC).
In the run-up to the procedure, donors are given a drug with the growth factor G-CSF to increase the number of stem cells in the blood.
Pria said: “At the time I had so many things going on. We had just gotten past Christmas, both of my children had birthday’s in January, and I was about to sit a final GP exam.
"DKMS were excellent and did their best to schedule my G-CSF injections the day after I sat the exam. Of course, they checked that this wouldn’t impact the patient.
“My actual donation was really nice, especially as there were other donors in the room at the same time donating for other patients.
"We all got on really well and chatted loads. The clinicians told us that we were the chattiest group they had ever had. I’ve remained terrific friends with one of my fellow donors.”
Because of the minimum two-year anonymity period in the UK, donors can only contact the patient anonymously, by letter or email.
Pria said: “I don’t know anything about my patient other than she is a woman. She really is a stranger, but I hope my blood stem cells help her to live a long life.
“I strongly encourage people in Crawley to register with DKMS. By donating their blood stem cells, not only will you potentially help a stranger in desperate need, but you'll also help their family and friends by giving them more time together.”
Crawley has a population of around 114,000 with 14 neighbourhoods, the largest inland town in West Sussex. Yet, just 865 residents have registered with DKMS.
On May 28, DKMS celebrates their day of awareness - World Blood Cancer Day. This May, the charity aims to register 2,000 new registrations (roughly one for every donor in the UK waiting) by the end of May 28.
If you are called upon to donate your blood stem cells it is because you are likely the patients best match.
There are two donation methods. Around 90 per cent of all donations are made through a method called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection.
This method is very similar to giving blood. It involves being connected to an apheresis machine. Apheresis means 'to separate'.
This machine separates blood being taken from one of the donor's arms, and separates the blood stem cells from it. The donor's blood is then returned to them through their other arm. This is an outpatient procedure that is usually completed in four-to-six hours.
In just ten per cent of cases, donations are made through bone marrow collection. Bone marrow is taken from the pelvic bone under general anaesthetic, and this lasts around an hour.
DKMS need blood stem cell donors from all backgrounds. If you are aged between 17-55 and in good general health, you can support Gareth and the other 2,000 people in need of a lifesaving blood stem cell transplant by registering online at www.dkms.org.uk/register-now for your home swab kit.
By registering, you'll join a group of over 840,000 other DKMS lifesavers-in-waiting, ready to make a difference by giving someone a much-needed second chance of life.