In 1994 London Greek Radio (LGR) put out a mother's appeal for her son. She asked other mothers to put themselves in her shoes - her son had leukaemia and his only hope was a bone marrow donor. The family were from Cyprus and the bone marrow registries at the time had very few Mediterranean donors.
It struck a chord with Cypriot people in London especially those with children of a similar age. LGR hosted a registration clinic and a group of people decided they had to do more. Using their networks they recruited hundreds of potential donors. They were so successful that Anthony Nolan could not process all the people who came forward. Undeterred, they offered to raise enough money to register everyone. They organised a sponsored walk and with the help of LGR and local Greek papers over 400 people to walk from Wood Green to the Royal Free Hospital. They raised over £40,000 for the Anthony Nolan to register and process new donors.
Flushed with success the group deicded to carry on recruiting new donors, raising awareness of blood cancers, and supporting patients with the disease. Within a year of hearing the appeal on London Greek Radio, the group had formed a committee and registered the charity.
A chance meeting, with the then Chairman of the Cyprus Platelets Society, Mr Christos Andreou, at St. Bartholomew’s hospital in London, led to the establishment of the Karaiskakio Foundation, the Cyprus bone marrow registry.
For over a year we had been working very hard trying to increase the number of Greek and Cypriot donors on the British bone marrow registries. With minority ethnic groups now dispersing around the UK, we quickly realised this was not going to be an easy task. A bone marrow registry in Cyprus quickly became our aim. But, with the financial cost involved, it seemed a long way away.
That meeting during Easter week 1995, while visiting hospital patients, was the turning point. Mr Andreou told us of the Karaiskaki family. Their 4-year-old son Andreas Karaiskaki, had an aggressive form of leukaemia. The family raised a large sum of money to take their child abroad for treatment. Unfortunately, young Andreas lost his fight with leukaemia before they could start the treatment. The family now wished to give the money to a cause that would help others in Andrea’s position.
LCS matched these funds. In November 1997 the president of Cyprus, Glafkos Klerides, was guest of honour at the inauguration of the Karaiskaio Foundation, the Cyprus bone Marrow Register in memory of Andreas Karaiskaki, John Triteos and Anna Georgiou.
The Cyprus Bone Marrow Donor Registry with more than 140,000 registered volunteer donors today, has the highest per capita ratio of donors in the world. Being advanced and efficient with highly qualified and experienced staff, it helps patients from all over the world to find compatible donors for bone marrow transplantation.
All donors recruited through the Registry automatically become part of Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide (BMDW) which can be easily accessed by all registries in their search for a compatible donor. The Cyprus Bone Marrow Donor Registry was established with the help and support of the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust (ANBMT), whose significant assistance is recognised and acknowledged.
The Karaiskakio Foundation had a simple wish – to offer hope to patients with blood cancer or any other haematological diseases. Today it is acknowledged locally and internationally as a modern scientific centre of high quality.