The number of Australian patients receiving a life-saving gift of blood stem cells from an Australian donor has shrunk significantly over the last decade. Around 8 out of 10 Australian patients now depend on donors that live overseas.
Which means 8 out of 10 patients worrying about what might go wrong while these cells travel the vast distances to Australia – and whether global uncertainty will affect their chances of a successful transplant. Even worse, some Australian patients will never find their matching donor overseas; their only hope lies with Australian donors.
We need around 20,000 new donors joining the registry each year to improve the chances of Australian patients finding a matching Australian donor.
State governments decide how many new donors can join the registry, and how they join. For decades they’ve funded the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood to sign up about 6,000 blood donors to our registry each year.
To join our registry through a simple cheek swab, we need Australian state and Commonwealth government approval. If you are not eligible to donate blood and wish to join our registry, please call Lifeblood on 13 14 95 to discuss your options.
The simple fact is that you don’t have to be a blood donor – or even eligible to donate blood – to join our registry through swabbing. You just need to be healthy and aged between 18-35 years. For several years we’ve been asking state and Commonwealth governments to let us recruit donors using cheek swabs, so those who want to join but aren’t blood donors will no longer be excluded.
In 2019 we established Strength to Give to show just how effective it is to recruit donors using our home-delivered cheek swab kits. Similar kits are used each year to recruit millions of donors overseas. In July 2020 governments approved our recruitment of 6,000 donors through this program, which was completed in April 2021.
So until we hear more, if you are aged between 18-35, want to join our registry and you’re a blood donor then please ask to join the registry when you next donate blood.
If you want to join our registry but aren’t a blood donor, then join with us and our supporters Ur the Cure and Australian Marrow Match to ask governments to increase donor recruitment and let us bring back the swab!
What about recruitment drives?
If you know someone in need of a transplant, be assured that there are around 40 million donors around the world that we will search through on behalf of your loved one.
A positive way you can contribute is to encourage other people to join the registry. It is important to understand that these ‘drives’ will almost certainly not recruit a matching donor for your loved one, because of the complications involved in genetic matching. But they often recruit someone that matches another patient in need – someone who may not have found a matching donor if it wasn’t for your drive.
If you are interested in running a recruitment drive, you will need to ensure that everyone who signs up is prepared to donate their blood stem cells to anyone, anywhere in the world; and that no pressure or coercion whatsoever is placed on people considering joining. You should plan to recruit young (18-35) men in particular, as they are the most sought-after donors and least likely to join of their own initiative.
Until we can support your recruitment drive with cheek swab kits, you will need to contact Lifeblood in your state for their assistance. Please be aware that all donors joining through Lifeblood must be eligible to donate blood.