By Kelly McAllister, reporting for VIEWdigital
A west Belfast father has put out an urgent appeal for more men to come forward and join the stem cell register following the launch of a campaign to help save his daughter’s life.
Many women have already joined the stem register as a result of Sean Smyth’s campaign to help his daughter Eimear (24), who is now waiting for a lifesaving stem cell transplant.
He started the campaign in a bid to raise awareness around stem cell donation after Eimear was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer in September 2016
He spoke to VIEWdigital as he waited on Eimear coming back from another hospital appointment, something that has become all too common for the family.
“There are two reasons that we need more men signing up. They produce more stem cells and they don’t get pregnant. When a woman becomes pregnant she cannot donate during her pregnancy or for 12 months after.
“There is a huge shortage of young men on the list, only two percent on the list in Northern Ireland are males,” he said.
As part of the campaign Mr Smyth has held recruitment events in a bid to get more people on the register. Since the campaign started charities Anthony Nolan https://www.anthonynolan.org/ gained at least 1,000 people on their register and DKMS UK https://www.dkms.org.uk welcomed more than 800 new potential donors.
Sean was out and about at this year’s Belfast Pride and successfully signed up 196 new people to become stem cell donors.
Now he is targeting sports clubs such as GAA, rugby and football clubs – some have even contacted him about holding recruitment events in their venues.
“Eimear was a professional dancer, she was fit as a fiddle. She didn’t smoke, was a social drinker, if even that and there is no history of cancer on me or her mum’s side of the family. If my daughter can get this illness, anybody’s daughter can,” Mr Smyth said.
Although he started the campaign in order to find a match for Eimear, Sean is now determined to help others that are in the same position as his daughter. He hopes that one day every single person in Ireland will be on the donor list.
He said: “There are over 2,000 people waiting for a stem cell transplant in the UK. It is Eimear’s search now, but this illness is not going away. I can sit back and let the doctors and Anthony Nolan do their stuff and save my daughter’s life. Or I can get off my ass and help others.
“If this was a member of your family would you hesitate? Or would you be the first to offer to help?”
More information on Eimear’s Search Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Eimears-Search-216755005820277/ Twitter https://twitter.com/Eimears_search