Helping save a life at Lochgilphead High School

Lochgilphead High School pupils team up with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for Anthony Nolan.

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A much-loved Lochgilphead woman was remembered as Lochgilphead High
School pupils joined forces with the fire service to support a blood cancer charity.

In the past decade, through its partnership with the charity, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has recruited more than 17,000 potential donors to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register. 1,200 of those have been recruited through events in Argyll and Bute, with 300 from Lochgilphead alone. Sixty  of those recruited in Scotland have gone on to provide a potentially lifesaving stem cell donation.

In 2008, Ally Boyle was diagnosed with a blood disorder. He was told his best chance of survival was a stem cell transplant. As area commander with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, Ally recognised the synergy between the service and Anthony Nolan, with their shared aims of saving lives. He contacted Anthony Nolan and soon after this fantastic, life-changing partnership was born.

Most SFRS partnership activity now takes place in schools across Scotland, with tens of thousands of young people now educated about stem cell donation.

Even after retiring, Ally continues to head up the partnership which has a strong network of SFRS volunteers across the country, with newly- appointed Local Senior Officer for East and West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute Andy Watt chairman of the partnership.

‘I feel enormously privileged to lead the partnership and I am delighted with what we have achieved. Not only has this partnership allowed us to increase our ability to save lives, but it has also brought huge benefits to us as an organisation. We couldn’t be more proud. This partnership is truly lifesaving,’ said Andy Watt.

Holding a registration clinic at Lochgilphead Joint Campus on Tuesday February 25, the aim of the day was to beat the previous school champions’ registration number and they succeeded with the help of Jennifer Nelson and her friends.

The previous record had been set by Alix Nelson, Jennifer’s older sister, two years ago. The girls are the cousins of Joanna MacVicar who sadly died after being unable to find a stem cell match.

Laura Campbell, who has fought cancer three times and received a stem cell transplant in October 2016, was also there to help guide pupils through the process.

Former pupil and station commander at Oban Community Fire Station John Sweeney had been in the school the previous week speaking with S5/6 pupils about the work of Anthony Nolan and asking senior pupils to consider registering as potential bone marrow donors, giving them the opportunity to think it over before the registration event.

Following the clinic, John Sweeny said: ‘The joint campus has been a fantastic supporter of the partnership and once again pulled out all the stops to make the event a success. A total of 55 people joined the register beating the event held two years ago by one.

‘I’d like to thank everyone involved in making the event such a success, including pupils, staff and volunteers. They once again did Mid Argyll proud.’

Anyone who would like to know more about the partnership or who would like to join the register can do so by visiting www.anthonynolan.org/sfrs