Celebrities rally round to help Jewish family in search of bone marrow donor


Dozens of celebrities including pop star Britney Spears have backed a campaign to help a Jewish family find a bone marrow donor to save their mother's life after her leukaemia returned.

Three years ago, British Jews came together to save the life of Kenton grandmother Sharon Berger.

With a diagnosis of advanced leukaemia, Mrs Berger's only hope was a stem-cell transplant. Thousands of people signed up as potential donors through the family’s #Spit4Mum campaign and eventually a match was found.

Since the transplant, Mrs Berger has enjoyed life. But, two weeks ago, the family were dealt a devastating blow as a routine blood test revealed the illness had returned.

Stars including Sharon Osbourne, Matt Lucas, boy band Blue, Bear Grylls, and television personality Jeremy Kyle have all shared the #Spit4Mum campaign online to help her for a second time.

Britney Spears tweeted details of the campaign to her 46.7 million followers in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Speaking about the support for her 65-year-old mother, Mrs Berger's daughter Caroline said: “We’ve been incredibly moved by the global support from celebrities on social media.

“Now I hope we can turn those tweets into sign-ups to help save my mum’s life.

“We are incredibly grateful that people in the public eye are putting the weight of their social media presence behind our #Spit4Mum campaign and using their celebrity status for the greater good.”

Caroline's brother, Jonni, added: “We’ve had some amazing social media support which has taken our appeal to new audiences.

“It’s fantastic to see people getting behind our campaign so quickly. Retweets raise awareness but people have to take action, and that is the hard part.”

Doctors have now told the family that Mrs Berger has just six weeks before she needs a second transplant.

Jonni said: “It means that her body has not responded to the anonymous matching donor who seemed to have saved her life, and she now needs another transplant.”

He and his sister spearheaded the 2013 #Spit4Mum campaign, which led to a 1,100 per cent increase in the number of British Jews registering as donors.

Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is now searching the world’s combined stem cell registries for someone whose tissue type matches Mrs Berger's.

Because of her Jewish heritage, her best match is likely to be an Ashkenazi Jew.

But the family are encouraging everyone who is eligible to join the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow register, as a potential match.

Ann O'Leary, head of register and development at Anthony Nolan, said: “The amount of support that’s been shown for #Spit4Mum so far has been extremely heartening.

“Everyone who has read and shared the campaign has made a big difference. But there’s still more that can be done.

“We would urge anyone who hasn't joined up yet to consider doing so - it's straightforward and could help save the life of someone like Sharon.

“To join up you must be aged 16-30, in good health and weigh at least 50kg. We are particularly looking for people from Jewish and other ethnic minority backgrounds to join, as they are currently underrepresented on the donor register.”

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