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This student’s lifesaving mission for blood stem cell donors

SAVED: Zainab Garba-Sani

IN 2006, Zainab Garba-Sani’s friend received a life-changing blood stem cell donation to treat her sickle cell anaemia. Inspired to overcome the lack of awareness around blood cancers and disorders, Zainab’s now on a mission with the blood cancer charity DKMS to give more people like her friend a second chance of life.

Zainab’s first experience of blood stem cell donation was when her friend received a life-changing donation to treat her sickle cell anaemia. Zainab said: “Coming from a Nigerian ethnic origin I have seen the effect of blood diseases like sickle cell anaemia and how they impact so many lives. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness in the UK and stigma in Nigeria, not enough people with an African heritage register to become potential blood stem cell donors”

Blood stem cell donation is an unfamiliar process for many people in the UK. But, for someone with a blood cancer or disorder it can often be the best treatment – a second chance of life.

The closer the genetic match between the donor and patient, the more successful the treatment is likely to be. However, about 70% of people in need of a donation won’t find a matching donor within their own family. Instead they must look to the compassion of others to find a suitable match.

With as few as 2.6% of registered blood stem cell donors in the UK having an African or African-Caribbean heritage, it can be hard for people with the same heritage to find a match. That’s why DKMS exists – to find lifesaving blood stem cell donors for anyone facing a blood cancer or disorder, anywhere in the world.

Finding lifesavers

Now Zainab is on a mission with the blood cancer charity DKMS to make sure that, for anyone facing a blood cancer or disorder, the odds of finding a lifesaving blood stem cell donor are better.

Zainab said: “Blood cancers, such as leukaemia, can affect anybody. I wanted to get involved with DKMS to support everyone’s fight against blood cancers. There are a lot of people who’ve donated their blood stem cells or are already registered. However, there’s still an urgent need for more donors and I wanted to raise awareness of this to encourage more people to register.”

In 2016 Zainab became DKMS’ first student ambassador and set up a society of volunteers at the University of Bradford to help inspire more young people to sign up as potential blood stem cell donors in the UK.

Zainab said: “After DKMS visited my university I did some research and found out more about their mission and what they wanted to achieve. I thought it was amazing and wanted to be apart of it.”

You could be the lifesaver someone is urgently looking for.

Zainab and her team of volunteers have registered nearly 200 potential blood stem cell donors in the UK so far. She said: “It’s made me realise how people can be so selfless and kind in wanting to help others. It’s been such an inspiration.

“If you’re looking to help make a difference and give something back to the community then this is a great place to start. DKMS is such an amazing charity and we need so many more people to get behind this and volunteer to potentially help save someone’s life. It’s so rewarding and I would urge you to do it. ”

How you can help

If you’re aged between 17 and 55 and in general good health, please sign up for a home swab kit at dkms.org.uk/swab and go on standby to save the life of someone just like you.

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