News story

Desert Rats boost leukaemia charity's life-saving bid

More than 200 soldiers from 7th Armoured Brigade (the Desert Rats) have come out in force to register as potential new bone marrow donors with leukaemia charity Anthony Nolan.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
A soldier from 7th Armoured Brigade provides a saliva sample as part of registering as a bone marrow donor

A soldier from 7th Armoured Brigade provides a saliva sample as part of registering as a bone marrow donor [Picture: Cpl Obi Igboebisiokwu, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

The soldiers registered as donors at special clinics at their home barracks in Fallingbostel and Hohne in North Germany by giving a small sample of their saliva which Anthony Nolan will place on their register.

The charity will then analyse the samples looking for matches with any of the 1,400 people in the UK who desperately need a bone marrow transplant.

If a match is found, any one of the 225 soldiers who took part could then be asked to go back to the UK to make a potentially life-saving donation.

The mass registration follows in the footsteps of fellow soldier tank crewman Lance Corporal Marc Munro who in 2008 was given special permission to leave his post in Iraq to return to the UK to become a bone marrow donor after he was matched to a leukaemia sufferer in need of a transplant. He had joined the Anthony Nolan register three years earlier.

Despite being three months into a six-month tour with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards near Basra, his superiors were in no doubt as to the importance of getting Lance Corporal Munro back to the UK as quickly as possible to make the donation and save someone’s life.

Lance Corporal Marc Munro

Lance Corporal Marc Munro [Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

Lance Corporal Munro said:

I was on my third tour in Iraq when I got the call to say I was definitely a match for someone. I felt so lucky and privileged. It’s really tough being on tour - getting cracking good news like that makes a massive difference.

They don’t let people go easily when you’re on tour in Iraq, but my bosses were incredibly supportive. Within four hours they cleared it and within a week they flew me back to London.

The most amazing thing is that you know your bone marrow is going straight off to someone who urgently needs it. You know you’re potentially saving a life.

The Army is an ideal place to recruit donors as young healthy people, especially men, make the best donors, although anyone can donate as long as they are aged between 18 and 40, weigh over eight stone (50kg) and are in general good health.

Karen Archer, Anthony Nolan’s Recruitment Manager to the Armed Forces, who was on hand to offer advice during the clinics in the barracks in Germany said:

Just 30 per cent of patients will be able to find a matching donor from within their families, leaving the rest to rely on people who have joined Anthony Nolan’s register.

We have a long and established relationship with the Armed Forces and their proactive support for recruitment events has already found matches and saved lives. Troops are an especially important group for us, as the need for young and healthy donors is urgent.

To find out more about joining the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register call 020 7284 1234 or visit the website - see Related Links.

Published 3 September 2010