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The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LIONEL SALAMA Lionel Salama is Sec­re­tary of the Sue Har­ris Trust

IT WAS 1993 and Yom Kip­pur has just ended. I gulped down a cof­fee, scoffed some sponge cake and dashed to the of­fice to wait for the first calls. We had launched the Sue Har­ris Cam­paign in syn­a­gogues all over the coun­try with 100,000 leaflets.

Sue her­self ad­dressed 150 au­di­ences — from char­ity balls to Fri­day night din­ners — with a sim­ple, mes­sage: “I’m Sue Har­ris, I have leukaemia and one of you could save my life.”

The first call that night came from Nigel Sav­age, founder of Ha­zon, the Amer­i­can Jewish en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion. A few more trick­led in but it was hardly a rush. I de­cided to call it a night.

We had no email and no so­cial me­dia 25 years ago. This cam­paign was strictly old school, so what did we ex­pect? Slowly though, the re­sponse grew and we hired some­one for three months to man­age the cam­paign. The in­cred­i­ble Lizzie Rosen­felder is still with us. She or­gan­ised re­cruit­ment drives in syn­a­gogue halls, where hun­dreds queued to give blood for test­ing. Donors were found for oth­ers; but not for Sue.

When a bone mar­row donor was found in Amer­ica, ev­ery­one was elated. But two days be­fore she was due to go to hospi­tal, a mes­sage was left on her phone. The donor had pulled out. It was shock­ing news and a shock­ing way to de­liver it. A sec­ond donor emerged in Ger­many but her con­di­tion had wors­ened be­yond the point at which it could work.

By the time she had fin­ished cam­paign­ing, Sue had added al­most 15,000 Jewish donors to the UK’s na­tional registry. At the time, it was the big­gest eth­nic group on it and has un­doubt­edly helped save lives. We had also met other Jewish pa­tients, so de­cided that we couldn’t stop.

A trust was es­tab­lished in Sue’s name, which has aided pa­tients world­wide, and helped es­tab­lish Is­rael’s stem cell donor registry, funded a health eco­nom­ics study that changed the course of um­bil­i­cal cord col­lec­tion in the UK and spon­sored a clin­i­cal trial whose out­comes are sav­ing lives.

For­tu­nately, the medicine for treat­ing those with blood can­cer has ad­vanced con­sid­er­ably. Had Sue been di­ag­nosed ten years later, she would have been treated with a drug that would have prob­a­bly kept her alive. But de­spite the ad­vances, un­re­lated stem cell donors

(as they are now more com­monly called) are still needed for about 1,000 Jewish peo­ple ev­ery year.

For Ashke­nazim there’s a 25 per cent chance of them not find­ing one, Sephardim 50 per cent and, for those with a par­ent from both, up to 90 per cent. There’s also a clin­i­cal pref­er­ence for the donor to be aged 16-24. That means those re­cruited for Sue’s cam­paign are now of lit­tle value.

So, on the 25th an­niver­sary of her cam­paign, we’re launch­ing an ini­tia­tive to re­cruit a new gen­er­a­tion. For­tu­nately, in this digital age, I know break­ing the Fast will be a some­what more re­laxed af­fair: you can now reg­is­ter on­line at sue­har­


En­dur­ing: An im­age from the Sue Har­ris cam­paign

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