A selfless teenager has been hailed a hero after being found to be a match just two weeks after joining the bone marrow donor register.
Luke Wainwright is undergoing tests to become a donor in the hope of saving someone’s life – and is now urging others to donate.
The 18-year-old only joined the register with the Anthony Nolan Trust last month but he has already been identified as a match for someone needing a life-saving operation.
He was inspired to get involved after hearing the story of South Shore Tai Chi instructor Lee Davis-Conchie, who died in October aged 44 after battling a rare form of cancer.
Stepdad-of-two Lee had undergone a bone marrow transplant in his fight with acute myeloid leukaemia, but he passed away from complications.
He went on to be one of the poster boys of the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register Trust as well as a community champion trying to raise awareness of the condition.
Lee’s mum Pat Conchie today praised Luke’s simple but selfless act of joining the register.
She said: “It’s unbelievable, just wonderful.
“I’m so pleased that Lee made such a good impression and got his message out there of how much donors are needed.
“You can’t give anything better than the gift of life. Luke will be a hero.”
Luke, an upper-sixth student at Blackpool Sixth Form College, learned about bone marrow transplants when staff from The Anthony Nolan Trust visited the college on Blackpool Old Road in November and teenagers were told about Lee’s story.
Maths student Luke said: “It was Lee’s story that really got me to sign up and inspired me to do this.”
There are around half a million people currently on the register and 1,800 people needing a donor annually, but of those only around 1,000 are found matches and they can take up to six years to find.
Ann O’Leary, head of register development at Anthony Nolan, said: “The average waiting time for a donor is six years, so for Luke to have been selected so quickly is remarkable.
“Young men are a key demographic for the donor register, so it’s really encouraging when people as young as Luke sign up.
“His is the kind of selfless and inspiring act that directly helps save lives. What a great Christmas present to give to a stranger.”
As a leukaemia patient Lee set up a support group for patients, carers, friends and family affected by any type of blood cancer.
Although Luke did not know Lee he hopes to help another cancer sufferer in his memory. And he hopes his story will inspire others to join the register, simply by spitting into a test tube.
The teenager, from Ainsdale Road, Bispham, added: “I’m doing this because of him and if that saves someone’s life I think he’d be really happy.
“It’s completely bizarre that someone out there needs a part of me to live, they’ll have my immune system.”
Luke has been a regular blood donor since he was 17 after being encouraged to donate by his mum, and now his sister is looking to join him on the register too.
He said: “My whole family think it’s fantastic, they’re really quite proud of me.”
To join the register you must be aged 16 to 30, in good health and of a healthy weight. The Trust is particularly in need of young men to sign up as they produce more stem cells than women.
The usual method of transplant now involves removing blood from the body, separating the stem cells from the other cells in the blood and then returning the blood to the body.
However, the painful procedure of removing bone marrow through inserting a needle or syringe into the hip is still sometimes done.
Luke added: “For me, it wouldn’t matter even if they did have to drill. That would mean I’d have to be in bed for, say, 10 days whereas it’d mean someone else could get up and live the rest of their life.”
Pat Conchie has heaped praise on Luke.
She said: “It’s something that any like-minded person could do, but to that person receiving the donation, he will be a hero. I wish him all the best.”
Luke is now waiting to hear back after sending blood tests for medics to assess his health, he hopes to continue with the process in the new year.
For more information visit www.anthonynolan.org.