The selfless strangers who donate their stem cells are ‘like gold dust’, according to Jaso Manokaran, a 29 year old father of two from Harrow, who is searching for a bone marrow donor to save his life after being diagnosed with leukaemia.
Jaso, a Sri Lankan Tamil, started to feel unwell in October, experiencing severe pain in his bones, starting in his shoulders, and also had fever-like temperature. After a trip to the GP, Jaso was given painkillers but the pain kept returning and became unbearable.
Jaso says, “The pain came back again and again, we had to call ambulance twice in the same week. My GP said we will do a blood test and I was advised to go to hospital. When I got there I collapsed, I couldn’t manage the pain. I was rushed to A&E again and had a bone biopsy which revealed I had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).
“I thought it was a viral infection, I didn’t expect it to be cancer at all. When my consultant said I had leukaemia, I was crying like a river. I couldn’t really hear what he was saying, I was so worried. We started the chemotherapy soon after.”
From the very start of Jaso’s treatment he was told that he needed a bone marrow transplant. Because Jaso has no siblings who could be a match, he is reliant upon finding a match from stranger on the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register.
Jaso says, “It felt like a double dose of bad news. I had no idea what a transplant was, I had so many questions: How will I get it? Where will I get it? How will I find a match? I was so worried. ”
“Now it’s not in my hands, I can’t run around and get it myself – I need a stranger to save my life. Anyone who signs up to the register is priceless, not only to me but to everyone waiting for a transplant. These people are so selfless and special, they’re like gold-dust.”
As Jaso is a Sri Lankan Tamil, his odds of finding a match are reduced because of a lack of donors from the same ethnicity. Currently, only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best possible match, and this drops dramatically to 20.5% if you’re from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background, as these communities are underrepresented on the Anthony Nolan register.
It was after learning that Jaso needed a transplant that his wife, Jasmini, kick started the ‘Help Save Jaso’ campaign to recruit more people to the register especially people of Tamil and Sri Lankan community.
Jasmini says, “It’s been a scary time for all of us but I was so inspired to get going for Jaso. I have found that many people from my community don’t know how to sign up to the register and many myths around donating have come up.
“Some people think it’s a big operation or involves lengthy surgery because of the word ‘bone’ but this is not true – now the process is usually just like giving blood. This is why we want to raise awareness to help sign up more Sri Lankan Tamils and save more lives.”
Lynsey Dickson, Regional Recruitment Manager for Anthony Nolan says, “We want to find the very best possible match for everyone like Jaso who needs a transplant. By building and diversifying our register we will be able to provide the best match to even more people with blood cancer like Jaso.”
“What many people don’t realise is how easy it is to join the bone marrow register – it simply involves filling in a form and providing a saliva sample. 90% of donations take place via peripheral blood stem cell collection. This is an outpatient appointment and is similar to donating blood.”
If you are aged 16-30, you can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register at www.anthonynolan.org. To follow’s Jaso’s story go to ‘Help Save Jaso’ on Facebook.