LOSING a parent when you’re just a teenager must be beyond comprehension.
But for Aimee Dunn – who is a now a 22-year-old IT worker – the trauma of losing her dad Dave to leukaemia spurred her on to potentially save somebody else’s life.
Aimee, of Ferry Street, Stapenhill, is one of just 508 ‘heroes’ in the Burton and Uttoxeter constituency. She is a hero because she on the Anthony Nolan register as a bone marrow donor.
Any day between now and when she turns 60, Aimee could receive a letter from Anthony Nolan confirming she is a match for a patient somewhere in the world who urgently requires her stem cells.
Aimee explains what made her sign the register and how her dad’s illness has given her renewed determination to help others.
She said: “My dad was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in October 2006. He had been feeling unwell and kept going to the doctors and some further tests revealed a problem with his blood. It was detected quite early and so he started having rounds of chemotherapy and infusions of platelets.
“When we found out that he needed a bone marrow transplant, my older brother Tom and I wanted to put ourselves forward but I was too young as I was only 14 at the time.
“I now realise that only about 30 per cent of people needing a transplant will find a match within their own family – which is why there is a need for people to sign the register.
“Thankfully we got the news we had been hoping for that a matching donor had been found for my dad in Germany – but then came the blow that this had fallen through. In the end, he received stem cells from cord blood with donors found in Spain and Australia.
“My dad had a successful transplant but in August 2007, we got the news that his leukaemia was terminal. Everything happened very quickly within the space of a year. My dad decided he didn’t want to be in hospital anymore towards the end and died at home.”
Dave Dunn died on September 22, 2007, aged 48 – just one month before his 49th birthday.
Aimee added: “It was such a horrible experience watching my dad go through his treatment and then being diagnosed as terminal. I thought that if I could stop just one family going through the same experience as we went through, then it would be worth it.
“At the time I thought you had to be 18 to be a donor of any kind, so I waited until I got to university before I started looking at anything properly.
“I joined the blood donor register in October 2010, but due to a chest infection I didn’t manage to do my first donation until January 2012.
“I waited until I had done three blood donations and made sure I was reasonably comfortable with that before signing up to the Anthony Nolan register.
“Joining the Anthony Nolan register is more of a commitment as I will be on the register until I am 60 and any day they could contact me to ask if I could go in to donate.
“If you get that call to say you are a match, you are not obliged to go ahead with the process but I don’t think there would be many people who would turn around and say ‘no’.
“I didn’t want to let anybody down and so that is why I waited a while before I signed up because I needed to make sure I was comfortable with the needles and donating process.”
I still continue to donate blood. I usually give blood at Burton Town Hall and I try to make sure it’s every three or four months, especially as my blood type is O- which is the universal type and it’s always in demand. To date I’ve given blood six times and I’m next booked in to donate on July 28.”
Aimee shared her reasons for joining the Anthony Nolan register after hearing about recovering leukaemia patient Katherine Sinfield.
The Balfour Street resident is the focus of the Burton Mail’s ‘Take Five Minutes’ campaign which aims to increase the number of blood, bone marrow and organ donors in the area.
Katherine announced her renewed determination to further increase levels after learning that the constituency of Burton and Uttoxeter was ranked at a ‘disappointing’ 515 out of 650.
Katherine said: “People like Aimee are heroes – they hold the key to saving somebody else’s life.
“Aimee could be the only match throughout the entire world for somebody fighting blood cancer or other blood disorders.
“Imagine you are that person who discovers you need a bone marrow transplant. Imagine Aimee is your only chance of survival throughout the entire world. Now consider what would happen to you if Aimee hadn’t chosen to sign the register.”
Both Aimee and Katherine agree that the “fear factor” element is a big barrier when it comes to getting more donors to sign up. Aimee said: “Unless you or somebody in your family has been touched by leukaemia, it is easy to think that being a donor means big needles and operations. People need to realise that it is not that different to giving blood.”
Katherine said: “I firmly believe education is the key to increasing donor levels. I have already had to complain to the BBC once this year about inaccuracies in one of its programmes and now I understand there is controversy surrounding inaccuracies in the Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks.
“It’s an uphill battle increasing donor numbers when popular television shows broadcast false fear-inducing information and that is another reason why Aimee is a hero. If people paid more attention to Aimee than to what they see on television, far more lives could be saved.”
YOU are the cure for blood cancer
THE cure for blood cancer isn’t in a lab, or a petri dish. It isn’t a pill or a powder.
If you’re aged 16 to 30 and in good health, it’s you.
If you tick the right boxes, you could save the life of someone with blood cancer, simply by donating your blood stem cells. But first you need to join the Anthony Nolan register.
People joining the Anthony Nolan register must: be between 16 and 30 years old be in good health weigh over 7st 12lbs (50kg) have a body mass index (BMI) lower than 40.
The charity particularly needs more young men to sign up. They produce more stem cells than women and are six times more likely to donate, but make up just 14 per cent of the register.
There is also a need for more donors from black and minority ethnic backgrounds as they often struggle to find matches for people in these groups.
Donating isn’t difficult, neither is joining the register. But it is urgent. You can join the register at:
If you sign up online, you will receive a ‘spit kit’ in the post. All you need to do is spit into a small tube and post it back to Anthony Nolan.
They’ll then test your sample and put the results in their database. Every time someone needs a transplant they’ll automatically compare their tissue to yours – and the 490,000 other incredible individuals on our register.