Leeds student’s saliva sample snowballed into a potentially lifesaving bone marrow donation

University of Leeds student Marcus Haber. Picture by Scott Merrylees.
University of Leeds student Marcus Haber. Picture by Scott Merrylees.
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Your student years are a time to socialise, become more independent and of course study – but for a select few, university is proving life changing in a different sense.

Marcus Haber, a final year maths student at the University of Leeds, looks like your average 21-year-old undergraduate and, in many ways, is apart from the fact that he has potentially saved someone’s life.

The Hyde Park resident, originally from Manchester, was persuaded by a coursemate to come along to an event urging young people to sign up the Anthony Nolan Trust’s bone marrow register by spitting into a tube and filling in a form.

Within a year Marcus was on the operating table under general anaesthetic donating bone marrow after being found to be a match for a man in his 20s or 30s who was battling blood cancer in December 2014.

Marcus chose to become one of the 10 per cent of donors to donate through the procedure rather than noninvasive stem cell donation, which is similar to giving blood, after doctors stated their preference.

“I thought that [joining the register] would be the end of it and then obviously I did hear back,” he said. “It was a big shock, I certainly wasn’t expecting to be contacted.

“I was happy to help and signed up to it so I thought I should follow it through.”

Marcus is one of 3,689 potential lifesavers that Leeds Marrow, a volunteer-run group of Leeds students, has recruited to the Anthony Nolan register in the last two years.

The Leeds group, which is one of around 50 nationwide, has raised more for the charity – a massive £13,551 – and recruited more donor register sign-ups than any other Marrow group over the last 12 months.

For Marcus the decision to donate was a “no-brainer”. He said: “I’m very pleased that I’ve done it, certainly no regrets.

“It’s nice when you think about it and I sometimes think about how they are doing at the moment.”

And he is likely to be one of only a handful of Leeds students who can rest safe in the knowledge that they have potentially saved the life of a stranger through donation.

Only around one in 1,200 people on the register go on to donate to help some of the 2,000 people in the UK in need of a bone marrow transplant each year.

Leeds Marrow’s success in recruiting Anthony Nolan register sign-ups is particularly important as you have to be aged 16 to 30 to join. Over the last two years a quarter of the 841 unrelated bone marrow or stem cell donors have been recruited at universities.

Shaminder Bhandal, president of Leeds Marrow, said the statistic “shows how valuable young people are in combating blood cancers”.

Visit leedsmarrow.co.uk.