People have been urged to “be a lifesaver from the sofa” as a stem cell donor register has been adversely affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Charity DKMS said that the number of stem cell donor registrations is down by 50% compared with this time last year.
With operations and appointments being delayed, the need for donors will be much higher than usual in the months to come, it said.
The charity is encouraging people to register to become potential donors by sending swabs through the post.
People can sign up for a swab pack online, which will be posted out.
They then need to return the swabs in a pre-paid envelope which can be dropped to any local post box.
The family of a little girl with a rare blood cancer has backed the campaign.
Two-year-old Adeline Davidson, from Inverness, was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a rare form of blood cancer, in February last year.
Her mother Steph Davidson, 26, said: “We were so relieved when we heard that there was a match for Adeline, there were no words really – this person who doesn’t even know Adeline was giving her a second chance at life. It was the best news ever.
“We were all ready for the transplant to start, but doctors took a throat swab from Adeline and found she had a common cold, so we had to wait a few days for that to clear up.
“But in those few days the coronavirus situation completely blew up and we were told the transplant was no longer going to go ahead.
“The transplant has been delayed for the foreseeable so we just have to wait and keep her healthy, because if she contracts any illness and has to be admitted to hospital, she’s at high risk of infection.
“She needs the transplant to live a normal life. We are a little fearful because of the delay and what this means for her future.
“We’re begging people to still register with DKMS if you can.”
Jonathan Pearce, chief executive of DKMS UK, added: “We are hugely concerned about the impact Covid-19 is having on those who rely on a blood stem cell donor.
“While many stem cell transplants are still going ahead, the logistics around supporting blood stem cell donors to travel to hospital, and then arranging the transport of the stem cells to the transplant centre, have become much more challenging and complex.
“There are also transplants that have been delayed, but once the pandemic is over we know there will be a backlog of patients in urgent need of an unrelated blood stem cell donor.
“Sadly though, in some of those cases, there’s a risk that the disease could progress further, and a transplant may no longer be possible once this is all over.
“We still need many, many more potential blood stem cell donors to come forward, and we know from our clinicians that once the world is free of Covid-19, there will be even more transplants needed.”
To find out more, visit https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/register-now