The life-saving legacy of a young journalist who was determined to make a difference

Five years after his death from leukaemia, award-winning regional journalist Adrian Sudbury has been credited with leaving a life-saving legacy.

Adrian died aged 27 in August 2008, with then Prime Minister Gordon Brown among those to pay tribute to him. He was diagnosed with two rare forms of bone cancer in November 2006, days after being promoted to a digital journalist role at Trinity Mirror’s Huddersfield Daily Examiner.

He chronicled is illness and treatment via Baldy’s Blog and was named best international blogger at the weblog awards in Las Vegas in 2007 and digital journalist of the year at the Regional Press Awards in 2008.

In the final months of his life, when it became clear his condition was terminal, Sudbury launched a campaign to make lessons about blood, organ and bone marrow donations compulsory for 16 to 18-year-olds in full-time education.

His legacy is the Register and Be A Lifesaver education programme (R&Be), which is run by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan.

Since it launched, more than 96,000 16 to 18-year-olds have received lessons on donation. According to the charity, some 4,300 have signed up as potential bone marrow donors, 5,400 have registered as blood donors and 1,400 have signed up to the organ donor register.

Under the scheme, volunteer presenters are trained to deliver information about donation to young people to allow them to make “an informed choice about whether they would like to register as potential lifesavers”.

Between May and August 2008, Adrian campaigned for all 16-18 year olds to be educated about the importance of blood, organ and bone marrow donation. A petition he started on the Number 10 website attracted more than 10,000 signatures and he presented it in person to then Prime Minister Gordon Brown and then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls.

Keith Sudbury, Adrian's father, said: “As Adrian’s parents we are very proud of what has been achieved and Adrian would be absolutely delighted. Adrian’s wish was beautiful in its simplicity.

“All he wanted was to educate every 16 to 18-year-old about blood, bone marrow and organ donation. They are then in a position to make informed decisions. Already lives have been saved. It has been wonderful to see the maturity of our young adults and how willing they have been to become involved in donation.”

Katie Day, supervisor of Register and Be a Lifesaver, said: “Five years ago, nobody could have envisaged just how successful R&Be would be. None of these achievements would have been possible without the vision of an inspirational young man and the support of a truly committed team of volunteers. 

“Young people are more likely to be chosen by doctors to donate bone marrow and R&Be is proving to be a fantastic way of reaching these vitally-important potential lifesavers.

“We want to continue to expand R&Be and hope that in the future, with support from the government and education sector, this will be a national education programme.’

The R&Be education programme currently operates in Yorkshire, The Midlands, Merseyside, Bristol, and Greater London.

According to Anthony Nolan, around 1,800 people in the UK are in need of a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant and in most cases this is their last chance of survival. Around 70 per cent of patients will not find a matching donor from within their families.

Anthony Nolan, which runs a register of bone marrow and stem cell donors, says it can only find a match for about half those who need a transplant.

The charity is particularly keen to find males aged 16-30 who are willing to join the register.

More details available from Anthony Nolan here.

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