Stem cell record breaker

329. Rik Basra (Leicester)

A Leicester man with leukaemia who has signed up thousands of people to the UK stem cell register.

In October last year Rik Basra set a challenge to sign up 1000 people to the stem cell register in one day. ‘Race to 1000’ took place at Loughborough University and eight different locations around Leicester city centre and resulted in 1020 potential lifesavers signed up to the register, smashing previous Anthony Nolan records for a university location and inspiring 150 volunteers to support the race.

The Leicestershire Police Inspector set up the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign with his wife after experiencing difficulties finding a matching stem cell donor. His search was made all the more difficult due to being a British Asian, with just 4% of the UK registry made up of minority donors. The campaign aims to prevent other families having to go through the same agonising wait to find a match by holding registration drives throughout the year, including at least one large event.

They have so far signed up more than 10,000 potential lifesaving donors by organising over 200 events. The campaign supports the work of Anthony Nolan, a charity that aims to save the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders and to a find stem cell donor for every person who needs one.

Rik was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2009. After intense chemotherapy he recovered and was in remission for two years. In October 2011, after a re-test due to a bout of flu, Rik received the devastating news that his leukaemia had returned. He was told his only chance of survival was to have a stem cell transplant. With no sibling match, he needed to find an unrelated donor but due to his ethnicity it was difficult to find anyone suitable. Luckily at the last moment a life saving match was found from a donor in Germany. Rik’s experience has inspired him to dedicate any spare time he has to getting people signed up to the register.

This September, for Blood Cancer Awareness month, Rik has teamed up with 31 different organisations in Leicester including Leicester Tigers, BBC Leicester and the Leicester Mercury to host ‘Pass It On Leicester’. Each day of the month a different organisation will host a recruitment drive. Every person that registers will sign a flag that will then be passed in relay to the next host. The flag, designed by George at ASDA, will then be hung in the Leicester Royal Infirmary Bone Marrow Transplant Unit as a symbol of support to all the people fighting personal battles with the disease.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Rik has already signed up a phenomenal number of stem cell donors including an amazing 1,000 in a day.  The challenge he has set himself this September shows his incredible dedication to raising awareness of this important cause and signing up even more donors.  I wish him every success with ‘Pass it on Leicester’ and I am delighted to be able to recognise his service with this Points of Light award.”

Rik said:

‘I am absolutely thrilled and humbled to have received this award, it’s an accolade that belongs equally to our many volunteers and supporters, whether in the shape of organisations or as individuals. We couldn’t do our lifesaving work without them.’

MP for South Leicestershire Alberto Costa said:

“I am truly delighted that Rik Basra has been recognised for the great community work that he has done and continues to do in raising awareness of the Bone Marrow Register and in ensuring that a large number of people are signed up to this valuable resource. His charitable work is an inspiration to others and he thoroughly deserves this Point of Light recognition announced by the Prime Minister. May I offer Rik and the Basra family my sincere good wishes and congratulations for receiving this well deserved award.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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