Sheffield bone marrow transplant survivor crowned Patient Champion of the Year

A father-of-two whose life was saved by a bone marrow donor from Germany has won the Patient Champion of the Year award at the Anthony Nolan Supporter Awards.

Mark Ritson, 51, of Fulwood, who has had two transplants in the past five years, with the second one saving his life, received the prestigious award from the blood disease charity in recognition of his outstanding work to help ensure other bone and blood marrow transplant recipients have access to high quality, specialist care.

Inspired by the generous gift of Jacqueline Harfmann, a German teenager who twice donated her bone marrow to him after being found to be a match and the “excellent” care he received at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Mark has since gone on to represent the views of patients at national level.

This includes giving his own personalised views of care to NHS England’s specialist Blood and Marrow Transplantation group, a national group dedicated to improving outcomes for patients needing blood and bone marrow transplants across the country.

Upon receiving his award, Mark said, “Sheffield is a major specialist centre for blood and bone marrow transplant patients, and I feel very lucky to have had my treatment there as the care was second to none.

“After I had my transplants I had quite a lot of hard to shift infections, but the team at Sheffield were well set up to deal with all sorts of problems and there was good communication between the different specialist departments which made a real difference to me in the days and weeks following my transplants, which as you can imagine was gruelling enough in itself.

“To be recognised for my work at a national level is amazing, and I want everyone to benefit from the same high quality care that I received in Sheffield and from the amazing gift of life my donor gave me.”

Professor John Snowden, Consultant Haematologist and Director of Bone Marrow Transplantation at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Mark is one of our outstanding patient representatives.

“Over the past ten years he has been through a challenging journey, having two bone marrow transplants, but it’s been amazing to see him come back to health and lead a fulfilling and joyful life with his family, even running one marathon earlier this year with his German donor.

“His ongoing support for our unit in Sheffield has been fantastic, and his feedback for the planning and design of new services and facilities highly valuable. This is a thoroughly deserved award.”

Mark was diagnosed with severe aplastic anaemia, a rare and potentially life-threatening condition where the bone marrow does not produce enough blood cells, leaving sufferers vulnerable to uncontrolled bleeding and infections, in 2008.

If you are interested in finding out more donating your stem cells to help patients like Mark, please visit https://www.anthonynolan.org/8-ways-you-could-save-life/donate-your-stem-cells. You must be aged between 16 and 30 and healthy to join the Anthony Nolan register. Once you sign up to the register you will stay on until you are 60.

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