#SaveVithiya: plea to find student stem cell donor in two months

Monday 29-02-2016 - 12:51

Vithiya Alphons, a student at Cardiff University, has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia and has learnt that she will die in the next two months if no match is found.

Vithiya, a 24 year-old student from Walthamstow, had only begun her final year studying medicine at Cardiff University when she received the news that she had an aggressive form of leukaemia.

“I’d just finished unpacking in my new room at Cardiff University, and was about to go out shopping in town, when I came down with a fever and severe sickness,” said Vithiya.

“On Monday, I went to my first lectures of the new term and I had to come home as I felt so sick again and had a pain in my leg. I’m generally a very well person and hardly ever go to the GP, but […] I knew deep down something was wrong with my health. So I went to see the GP on Wednesday, I was given a blood test the next day, and by that evening, I’d been called back in and told I had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

“From the first symptom to being diagnosed, it was only five days. I’d been absolutely fine before that. My whole life changed in under a week.”

Doctors have told Vithiya that her best option is to undergo a stem cell transplant within the next two months.

The first step is to find a donor, and sadly her brother Clime is only a 50 per cent match, meaning her best chance of survival is a closer match from an unrelated donor.

Anthony Nolan - the charity who specialise in helping those with blood cancer to find treatment  - have added their support and are searching the world’s donor registers for a compatible donor for Vithiya. But the search is more complex due to her Sri Lankan background.

“I knew it was going to be difficult because there aren’t many people from South Asian backgrounds who are signed up as donors” said Vithiya, adding “It’s frustrating but I don’t think it’s about Asian people not wanting to sign up. They just don’t know what it is – they think it’s taking something from your bone. We have to raise awareness.”

Vithiya’s friends and family have launched social media appeals including the #SaveVithiya hashtag to raise awareness and recruit stem cell donors and the plea for a match went viral last week after celebrities including JK Rowling lent their support on social media.

Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, said: “Vithiya is a bright and inspirational young woman and somewhere out there, there’s a potential lifesaver who could give her a lifeline by donating their stem cells.

“We are so grateful to Vithiya for raising awareness of the need for more Asian and ethnic minority donors, and for busting the myth that donating stem cells is painful.

“Joining the Anthony Nolan register just involves filling in a form and providing a saliva sample. If you’re one of the privileged few who goes onto donate, 90 per cent of the time this will now take place via an outpatient appointment which is similar to donating blood.”

Join the register!

If you're 16-30, you can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register here.

If you're over 30, you can sign up to the British Bone Marrow RegistryDelete Blood Cancer UK.


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