A Tribute to Danny Whyte from the ACLT
Danny Whyte passed away on Tuesday 22nd May 2007 after losing his battle against Leukaemia. Danny had been working to encourage people to donate bone marrow to cancer patients for many years and had set up the Danny Whyte and the Ivor Burford Leukaemia Trust (DWIB Trust). Danny was in a critical condition and was being monitored ahead of an operation that might have saved his life.
DWIB members issued the following statement:
‘The Board of Trustees of DWIB Leukaemia Trust announce with profound sorrow, the passing of their Founder and Executive Director, Mr. Danny Whyte, in London on Tuesday May, 22nd 2007. The DWIB Board is devastated by this loss; however, we wish to affirm our determination to continue with the invaluable work that our Founder Danny Whyte lived for. If out of this tragic loss the world will come to accept the dire need for the establishment of the Bone Marrow Registry and Comprehensive Treatment Centre for Leukaemia here in Ghana, first, and other parts of Africa, then Danny Whyte would not have died in vain’.
An Historic Event - ACLT in Africa, the Experience of a lifetime
Date: 10th December 2005.
One of the ACLT long term aims and objectives was to help establish a Bone Marrow Register in Africa and the Caribbean. Well one half of that dream became a reality when in December 2005 Orin Lewis and Beverley De-Gale returned from a 7 day raising awareness/registration drive initiative in Ghana, West Africa. The visit was necessitated by the urgent need to find a matching Bone Marrow donor for 35 year old Ghanaian born Danny Whyte who lived in the UK. Danny was diagnosed with Leukaemia in early 2004 but unfortunately relapsed in June 2005. He was back in remission but desperately needed to find a suitable bone marrow donor.
Orin and Beverley spent the first full day alongside Danny raising awareness via Breakfast TV and various Radio stations. The following 2 days consisted of many more interviews and appeals via the news media and written press. The initial response from the people of Ghana was potentially very positive with many intimating that they would register and also asking if future registration drives would take place outside the capital city of Accra. Even though Danny, Dr Ivy Ekem of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and the DWIB volunteers were very optimistic that the potential would be turned into practical positive action, Orin and Beverley remained open minded but hoped that the maximum 300 blood sample total would be reached.
The original plan was that as the Ghana Bone Marrow register had not yet been established then the samples taken would be shipped back to the Anthony Nolan Trust laboratories in the UK for tissue type testing in the hope of finding a match for Danny Whyte. The results would then be shipped back to Ghana to kick start West Africa’s first Bone Marrow Register. Due to the high cost involved Danny, DWIB and Korle-Bu Hospital were also appealing to the general public and institutions to kindly help fund this life saving initiative by way of sponsoring blood donors or by donating funds. The key elements of our collective raising awareness campaign via the news media and general public was the following:
Raising Awareness via Media interviews and Educational talks.
Lobbying the Ghana government, national and international agencies to see the plight of patients diagnosed with leukaemia and other haematological malignancies in Ghana and support the proper management of their diseases.
Lobby to ensure that Leukaemia patients have their medical costs covered as apart from Cervical and Breast Cancer, patients pay for all their health care
Educating the general public, medical professionals and patients.
Appealing for funding of the clinics, Register and for new facilities at Korle-Bu Hospital.
Some of the challenges and hurdles that we faced in Ghana were the following:
Myths, about ‘what is Leukaemia and Bone Marrow?’
Convincing people that they should step forward and help each other
But in order to counter any potential hurdles a dedicated and highly motivated team of volunteers including Alfred, Bernice, Abenaa, Kweku, and many other Medical Students were trained and assigned roles including the assistance for filling in Medical Application forms, Counselling, Blood Taking and the checking of forms.
The skills and requirements that the volunteers, under the skilful guidance of Dr Ivy Ekem, gave to the cause were the following:
Be prepared to sacrifice time and resource as needed
Be prepared to defend the main aims and objectives
Be trustworthy and sincere
Be open, objective and receptive to constructive criticism
Be able to face scrutiny, financial and otherwise
The Registration Clinics
Beverley and Orin assisted, shaped and co-ordinated all of the following Registration clinic dates.
07/12/05 - Headlines, Labone, Accra. 6pm-8pm (Public Education)
08/12/05 - Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra. 4pm-9pm (Donor Clinic)
09/12/05 - Legon University, Accra. 4pm-9pm (Donor Clinic)
10/12/05 - Afrikiko, Accra. 4pm to 9pm (Donor Clinic)
10/12/05 - Headlines, Accra. 9am to 2pm (Donor Clinic)
08/12/05 to 10/12/05 - Lister Hospital, Accra (All Day Donor Clinics)
At the very first clinic at Lister Hospital Orin followed by Danny Whyte addressed the small crowd of potential donors about the donation process and the personal urgent need for people to register. A young man called Seth, who attended the previous day Information session, ensured that he was the very 1st person to register and became Number 001. Afterwards a trickle of people started filing into the room to be registered. Then the team left for the main afternoon session at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. The sight that greeted the team was so overwhelming. The large room was filled with so many people patiently filling in forms, listening to Orin’s verbal/graphic/video presentation, having their forms checked and processed by Beverley and the DWIB team of volunteers before giving a blood sample to be tested for Danny.
Everyone who attended was made to feel very welcomed and Orin, Beverley and the team answered all of their questions and fears in a straightforward but simple and practical manner. The feeling of euphoria and that anything was possible was so obvious in the attendees let alone Beverley, Orin and all of the volunteers. But more so in Danny Whyte’s response. He was so happy to see that people had listened to his appeal and responded in a positive fashion. At the end of the 1st day we had registered 217 individuals, a response that blew everyone away. The debrief at 10pm consisted of so many congratulatory views with the hope that the following 2 days would see a similar response.
Well let us just say that it just kept getting better. The crowds kept coming and coming. Everyone was determined to try and help Danny or maybe being matched to someone else in the future. After 3 very hard days of registration drives the final total was 760, a truly stunning achievement of which Beverley and Orin were so proud to have helped and participated in the dawning of a new era in Black Health.
The final day in Ghana was for Orin and Beverley the fulfilment of a lifetime. Alongside friends they visited the Cape Coast where the historical Cape Castle is located. For hours they walked through the dark, cramped and frightening holes and dungeons where the Slaves were kept before being shipped off to the Americas and Caribbean. Beverley and Orin were very moved by the whole experience which contrasted with the smiling and happy faces of the children and adults swimming on the beach right next door to the Castle. (In addition to the 760 new potential donors that were tested to be added onto the new Ghana register our 2005 combination of ACLT UK clinics contributed 3198 UK donors onto The Anthony Nolan Trust and National Blood Service Bone Marrow registers.
Overall in 2005 the ACLT directly registered 3908 people. Therefore after 54 clinics our average was nearly 74 people registered per clinic. This was in comparison to our 2004 registration clinic average of approx. 50 people registered from 25 clinics.
These new potential donors will serve as the first registrants on the Ghana Bone Marrow Register which will be monitored and controlled by Danny’s charity DWIB Leukaemia Trust and the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra. It is now up to the general public and institutions to ensure that the costs are found to continue the registration clinics and increase the numbers on the new register. The long term aim is too ultimately affiliate DWIB with the world registers. DWIB (Danny Whyte and Ivor Burford Leukaemia Trust) was set up in Ghana. The aim (alongside the ACLT) is to increase awareness of Leukaemia in the West African sub Region, set up a fund to assist Leukaemia patients go through their treatment at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and to improve access to effective diagnostic and treatment options for sufferers in the region.
The new Ghana Bone Marrow register is potentially a great achievement; the country can become the role model for Nigeria and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa on this urgent health initiative. This will hopefully inspire more donor centres in West Africa and make Ghana the envy and inspiration for Black people all around the world.
Good luck to Ivor Burford and Dr. Ivy Ekem. Danny Whyte RIP.