Over 5,000 people left event organizers breathless when they lined up this weekend to see if they were eligible to be stem cell donors for a five-year-old cancer patient.
Five-year-old Oscar Saxelby-Lee was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in December. It is an aggressive type of leukemia that causes the bone marrow to release immature white blood cells. It is called T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and his treatment requires a stem cell transplant within three months time.
Oscar’s primary school in Worcester, England largely organized the event. “We decided we would do whatever it takes to find a donor for Oscar,” Sue Bladen, the school’s business manager told the NY Times.
Oscar’s parents and the school started a crowdfunding page in February and were able to raise about $11,300. This was more than they dreamed of and surpassed the amount of voluntary aid that they requested.
When doctors insisted that Oscar needed the stem cell transplant, his parents and school decided to organize the donor event in order to find a match. Anyone aged 17 to 55 was able to register as a donor.
The event was run by more than 200 volunteers who showed up from across the country to help.
Saturday was the first day that the event was live and over 1,800 people showed up to register as potential donors. Sunday was even more packed as over 3,000 people showed up, setting a record for the most people to ever volunteer as stem cell donors.
“People queued around the block, in the pouring rain, and nobody moaned about it,” Ms. Bladen said. “The spirit we had here was absolutely incredible, the generosity of people.”
After the event, numbers continued to rise as another 1,000 people registered to be potential donors online. That brought the total to approximately 6,000.
It will take at least six weeks in order to determine whether or not any of the potential donors are an eligible match for stem cell transplant.
“It’s incredibly difficult to find someone who is a suitable match because there are 17,000 HLA characteristics that have to be looked at,” Lisa Nugent, the head of donor recruitment said.