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Karl launches campaign to boost stem cell donor numbers in memory of much-missed pal Gavin

Former Armagh teacher passed away nine months after being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia

Karl (left) with Gavin, who passed away in November 2017.

A campaign to encourage more people to consider becoming stem cell donors has been launched in memory of a former Armagh school teacher.

Dungannon man Karl McQuaid has begun the three month campaign to encourage as many people as he possibly can to sign up to  the blood stem cell register in memory of Armagh man Gavin McNaney.

Gavin, a former teacher at St Catherine’s College in Armagh, passed away nine months after being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, aged 37.

Karl and Gavin first met as pupils of St Patrick’s Grammar in Armagh and they remained good friends until his passing in November 2017.

Last summer, Karl undertook a fundraising campaign in Gavin’s memory by running five kilometres a day for 32 consecutive days.

The ‘5k a day for Gavin’ challenge was a huge success, with hundreds of supporters running with Karl in towns and villages throughout Northern Ireland.

Nearly £15,000 was raised for Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI.

Both men had discussed the idea with neither imagining that the fundraiser would be done in Gavin’s memory.

Karl told Armagh I : “Having witnessed the excellent care that Gavin was getting in Ward C10 of the City Hospital, I told him that I wanted to raise some money as a token of thanks.

“I suggested the 5k a day challenge and he thought it was a great idea. He said that he would join me on some of the runs. Gavin had a very strong mindset. He said that he had to. It’s comforting that he was so positive despite all of the challenges that he faced since his diagnosis.”

Having discussed how fortunate Gavin felt to have had a complete stranger donate their stem cells, which were a match for his, Karl has decided to start another campaign to help others in Gavin’s name.

He has called this campaign ‘Somebody’s Stranger’ which can be found on Facebook.

The registration process to join the stem cell donor database is very simple and can be done easily on www.dkms.org.uk  (donors aged 18-55) or at www.anthonynolan.org  (donors aged 16-30).

A short time after registering online, potential donors will receive a swab kit by post. They are requested to swab the inside of their cheek and send that back by post for analysis.

They will now be on a worldwide database of willing donors and may be called upon at any time to donate their stem cells to help save the life of a blood cancer sufferer who is a genetic match.

Donating stem cells is a painless process which takes between two and four hours to complete.

During this time, a donor’s blood is removed through a needle in one arm and is passed through a machine that separates the stem cells.

The remaining blood is then returned to the donor through the other arm. A donor’s stem cells are replenished fully between two and four weeks after donation.

Armagh City Hotel has very kindly offered to host a registration event on Saturday, May 25, from 9am to 1pm.

Please come along and join the stem cell donor register or simply find out more about Karl’s campaign.

Details of all events and updates are available on Karl’s ‘Somebody’s Stranger’ page on Facebook.

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