Leeds friends donate lifesaving stem cells

Joe Rowbottom, of Yeadon, donates stem cells.
Joe Rowbottom, of Yeadon, donates stem cells.
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Two teenagers who were inspired to join the bone marrow register after a school talk have gone on to donate stem cells and save the lives of two strangers.

Jack Coen, of Ilkley, and Joe Rowbottom, of Yeadon, both 18, were found to be a match to two people after they signed up to the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register at Bradford Grammar School.

Jack Coen, of Ilkley, donates stem cells.

Jack Coen, of Ilkley, donates stem cells.

The school had hosted a talk from the charity as a fellow pupil, Alex Anstess, from north Bradford, had been diagnosed with leukaemia and was looking for a matching donor.

While not a match for Alex, Joe, a schoolfriend of his, went on to donate stem cells to a stranger in February this year.

He said: “It was so easy to spit in a tube and sign up. It’s not any expense in terms of time or money, everyone should do it.

“It was weird to think a stranger was dependent on me and yet it’s such a small thing to do. I It was actually surprising something so simple could save someone’s life.

Alex Anstess, now back at school after a successful transplant.

Alex Anstess, now back at school after a successful transplant.

“Knowing Alex spurred me on to donate because I knew what the person was going through. It’s great to see Alex back at school and proves the donor register does work.”

Jack, who turns 19 on Saturday and is now at university, donated in October 2014. He said: “I just thought if you have the opportunity to save someone’s life then why not? If I was in that position, I’d want someone to do it for me.”

A donor was also later found for Alex, who is now back at school and on the road to recovery after a successful transplant in September last year.

His mum Sue Anstess said: “I cannot describe the feeling of seeing that little bag of stem cells come in for Alex. We waited a long time for that moment and I’ll never forget the relief we felt. We’re so thankful to the donor who literally saved his life.

“It’s absolutely brilliant that Jack and Joe have gone on to donate and help another family like ours, it just shows one phone call can work wonders.”

The school talk was part of the charity’s Register & Be a Lifesaver (R&Be) education programme for 16 to 18-year-olds, set up as a legacy of Adrian Sudbury, the inspirational young journalist who died of leukaemia in 2008.

Katie Day, the programme lead at Anthony Nolan, said: “Jack and Joe’s generous act of donating their stem cells proves that young people have the selflessness and maturity to save lives. What Sue and Bradford Grammar have achieved is truly impressive and we are very grateful to them for helping Register & Be A Lifesaver educate students about how they could save a life, just like Jack and Joe.”

Anyone aged 16-30 and in good health can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register at www.anthonynolan.org.

For more information on the school talks, email registerandbe@AnthonyNolan.org or call 0207 284 8213.