One of the lesser known societies at our university, Southampton Marrow is here to raise awareness about the national need for more bone marrow donations. Marrow are imploring students at Southampton and the residents of the city to come and sign up! It’s quick and simple, all for a worthwhile cause. I speak to President Lydia Brackstone, Charity Officer Ellie Keegan and Publicity Officer Jonathan Kirman about the impact they hope to make…
So who are you, and what are your roles within the society?
Lydia: So, I’m Lydia, and I’m the President. I’m basically in charge of all of our donor recruitment, and fundraising, and just making sure everyone is doing their part.
Jonathan: I’m Jonathan, and I’m the Publicity Officer. And I do all the social media and create posters. (Cue raucous laughter from the group). I spread the word of Marrow.
Ellie: And I’m Ellie, and I’m the Fundraising Officer.
What do you guys do as a society?
Lydia: Marrow is the student part of (the charity) Anthony Nolan, and we sign people up the stem cell register.
Jonathan: Apparently bone marrow was too scary.
Lydia: We aim to just spread the word, explaining what the bone marrow and stem cell registrar is.
Jonathan: And we do socials…sometimes.
Lydia: We have crazy socials.
How did you guys become involved with Marrow?
Lydia: I’m involved because six years ago my brother had Aplastic anaemia, a blood condition. He needed a bone marrow transplant to save his life, and fortunately I was a match. You can have sibling matches, but there’s only a 25% chance of your sibling being a match, so we got really lucky. And I did it in traditionally what is called the “difficult way”, but everyone has a misconception about how painful it is, it’s really not. So that’s what I’m trying to share with people, and let them know it’s not as bad as people think. It’s literally like your back hurts.
Jonathan: So how did we get involved, Ellie? We got involved because Lydia explained how important bone marrow was.
Ellie: She shared her story.
Jonathan: Hashtag donation isn’t scary.
So where do they take the marrow from?
Lydia: They take it from your pelvis.
Jonathan: But this only happens in like 1 out of 10 cases.
Lydia: I was getting to that! I got involved when I was at school, and we started running clinics at mine and my brother’s school, and it just continue. So, I joined up when I got here. As John quite rightly pointed out, there are two methods, and only 10% of the time it’s done the difficult way. So in the 90% of time, it’s a lot like giving blood from your arm.
So have either of you two donated marrow or blood before?
(They both shake their heads).
Ellie: But there’s only a 1 in 100 chance you’ll be a match to someone on the register. So there’s quite a slim chance that we’ll even be a match.
Jonathan: But I have been meaning to donate blood for a while.
Lydia: People often confuse us with blood donation, and we’re like no we don’t do that. Someone we signed up last year has just been contacted! So they’re doing a last few couple of tests, because they usually contact a few people, then do the tests to see who is a better match.
How do you plan to raise more awareness, for you guys as a society and more marrow donation as a whole?
Ellie: So we have a fundraising social this Thursday (16th February). So we’re hoping that having an event outside uni will make people more aware about it.
Lydia: Our main aim this year is to contact societies. All of us have links to other societies.
Jonathan: We’re also spoken to Dan Varley (VP Engagement), and RAG as well. They all seem to be keen on helping us!
How much interest did you get at the Bunfight way back at the beginning of this year?
Lydia: We actually got quite a lot. Obviously our sign-ups aren’t going to be as much as one of the sports clubs, but for us, we were proud. So we got about 120 sign-ups.
This is a little bit more of a technical question. What happens if you are a match?
Lydia: So unlike blood donation, once you’ve donated once, you don’t have to do it again. Apparently the easy way is a lot like dialysis. They inject the stem cells into your blood, and then separate them and you get your blood back.
Ellie: All your transport and accommodation is sorted for you.
Lydia: The only time they would need to take it from the bone is if they need the marrow to be fresh, say for a baby. That’s the way people think it generally works, because the other way is a lot newer.
Jonathan: You have to think, yeah you might have back-ache for a couple of days, but you have saved someone’s life.
What other plans, apart from raising awareness, do you guys have planned for this year?
Jonathan: We’re planning to do more joint socials with other societies.
Lydia: Our aim for the year is to get more volunteers. We’re trying to make it a more well-known society, as it’s for a good cause.
For more information, you can join the volunteer group:
Southampton Marrow Volunteers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1704708109805552/
Back to the 80s Social at Jesters this Thursday: https://www.facebook.com/events/1666224410336722/