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UoB and local rugby groups lead life-saving campaign for leukaemia patient

The University of Bristol alongside Bristol-based rugby groups have been campaigning to find a stem cell match for local rugby player, Ellis Joseph. 

By Cara Hene, Music Digital Editor

Ellis, 26-year-old rugby player for the Old Redcliffians, was diagnosed in January with an aggressive form of blood cancer: acute myeloid leukaemia. This means that he is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant from a stranger.

The campaign #TryforEllis was launched to find a stem cell match – University of Bristol Sport partnered with the Old Redcliffians to host the first walk-in swab test event on the 21st of February. “Give 10 seconds. Give someone else years”, urges a joint Instagram post by the Old Redcliffians and UoB Men’s Rugby club.

Other UoB societies have joined the social media campaign, such as Netball, Volleyball and the Women’s Rugby team. This is in addition to local rugby groups including Bristol Imperial RFC and the Ding Crusaders.

Epigram spoke to the Old Redcliffians, who said that while nearly 1000 people had been swabbed, a match has yet not been found. They also told us that more swab events are planned – the next one will take place at the Bristol Bears grounds on the 22nd of March. Both men and women are urged to take part.

Ellis’s campaign and testing drive is supported by the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan - if you are aged 16-30 you can be sent a test kit through their website here to do at home. If you are 18-55 years old, you can receive a kit through DKMS here. Doing so not only supports #TryforEllis but means you could be the life-saving match for a future leukaemia patient. 

Due to Ellis’ ethnicity, he only has a 37% chance of finding a match with a stranger, compared to 72% for the rest of the population. Therefore, the campaign is particularly asking BAME individuals to come forward, as they are more likely to be a match.

The campaign has received even wider support, including from Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees and England Rugby in the past few days. Local Bristol businesses have also got involved, with Shirt Tales making clothing embellished with #TryforEllis.

Shortly after his diagnosis Ellis was moved into intensive care and began a course of chemotherapy. His mum says that he remains “positive and determined. But it isn't just Ellis. Sadly, too many people are diagnosed each day with nasty diseases and other blood cancers which all end up needing transplants”. 

“Ellis is passionate about raising awareness of the stem cell register now because we had no idea it was possible to donate your stem cells, so there must be millions of others like us, who don’t realise. He’s committed to spreading the word”.

Featured image: Anthony Nolan

Will you get swabbed for #TryforEllis?