Pablo Ráez's message is still having an effect and the number of new bone marrow donors who registered in Malaga province last year was 300 per cent higher than expected.
Pablo, a young man from Marbella who died of leukaemia in February last year, inspired numerous people to join his campaign for bone marrow donors, and his story went viral on social media.
Andalucía now has more bone marrow donors than any other region of Spain, says Isidro Prat, the director of the Regional Blood Transfusion Centre (CRTS), which registers and manages these donations in Andalucía.
By the end of November last year, 19,079 people in the region had registered as donors, and the number had risen to over 20,000 by the end of the year. In Malaga there were about 2,700 new donors (2,589 at the end of November). The original aim had been to reach 861. For Andalucía as a whole, the target was 4,463 donors.
Although these figures were lower than those of 2016, in Andalucía and in Malaga, they are still “spectacular, fabulous,” and all thanks to Pablo Ráez, says Isidro Prat. In 2016, Andalucía had 33,951 donors in total, of whom 11,201 lived in Malaga.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a bone marrow donor has to be between the ages of 18 and 55, healthy, and undergo a blood test. Experts say the ideal donor is young, between 18 and the early 30s, because at that age there is more chance of them proving compatible with a patient who needs a transplant.
The altruistic act of donating bone marrow offers people with leukaemia, tumours and other blood diseases the chance to have the transplant they need. The donors' details are on a register and if they are compatible with a patient they are phoned and asked to come to the hospital so that the bone marrow can be extracted. If they are happy to go ahead, they are given a blood test and asked to sign a consent form in the presence of a witness and a doctor, or two witnesses if the communication is by telephone.
The worldwide register of bone marrow donors offers a 90 per cent chance that the patients who need a transplant will be able to have one. The important factor is that the donor and recipient are compatible. The average time from the start of the process until a bone marrow implant takes place is about three months.
There are two ways of extracting the bone marrow. The first involves removing it via an injection in the hip, which is done in a sterile operating theatre. The other way is through the peripheral blood: the donor is given a treatment to stimulate the production of their bone marrow, a method known as apheresis, to obtain the cells which are produced. The extraction normally takes place the following day. The donor can go home once the apheresis is finished.
In Malaga province, the donations take place at the Carlos Haya regional hospital. The product extracted from the donor is analysed, preserved and sent to the hospital where the patient who needs the transplant is waiting. The whole process is extremely well coordinated, says Dr Prat.