Today, Team Margot Foundation is the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group: Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion. For more about the Group activity, please click here. Where it all started Family,
Margot had an extremely rare dual lineage Leukaemia with both Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) & Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). The consultant haematologist told us that he had only seen 3 such cases in 10 years.
Alongside our partners at NHS Blood and Transplant we have developed an education programme for children of primary school ages, explaining how we can give to help others. This video is for children to
My late daughter, Margot was diagnosed with blood cancer ten years ago today.
During the early hours of the following morning, Margot arrived at the paediatric intensive care unit in Great Ormond Street Hospital. She was in a perilous condition and urgently needed to be rescued.
Margot was put into an induced coma so that she could receive a platelet transfusion. And because her blood was so riddled with leukaemia, this was quickly followed by an exchange transfusion of red blood cells; effectively, all her blood was removed and replaced by the blood of a donor.
Fortunately, the right blood and platelets were immediately available and mercifully, Margot survived that episode and was brought out of her coma over a week later.
Those blood & platelet transfusions saved Margot’s life, but didn’t address her blood cancer. Doctors then told us that Margot needed a bone marrow (or stem cell) transplant to address the leukaemia, for Margot to stand the best chance of survival.
The search for her ‘perfect’ donor match was soon underway; a suitable donor was eventually found in Germany.
Initially, during the weeks that followed her stem cell transplant, it appeared as though Margot’s transplant had succeeded.
Unfortunately, the leukaemia returned, at which point Margot was declared incurable.
Some weeks later, to her credit, my wife Vicki (Margot’s mum) raised the prospect of donating Margot’s organs, after her death. This was a seminal conversation. My instinctive reaction was one of horror and I recoiled at the mere suggestion. However, within a day or so, I had come round to a very different way of thinking and was not just willing, but was positively certain that donating Margot’s organs would absolutely be the right thing for us to do.
We later discovered that this wasn’t going to be possible – because Margot had a blood disorder – however, the really important point here is that Vicki and I had discussed and agreed on what to do. That very difficult conversation helped us to agree on something which seemed so unthinkable.
Now, we irrefutably know how each of us feels about this matter. It might seem counter intuitive and perhaps a little odd, but comfort lies within that understanding.
Team Margot Foundation was set up 3 months after Margot’s death, in her memory and to honour her legacy. The charity was initially a donor recruiter, then an educator and today is the secretariat of an All-Party Parliamentary Group: Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion.
Donation remains at the core of what the charity is all about. As Vicki says:
“This could happen to anybody. If you’d be prepared to take a bone marrow transplant, or any other type of organ donation or blood donation, then I feel that people should be prepared to give also… I’d like people to think about that.”
Please sign up TODAY as a donor and encourage others to do the same:
Together, saving lives
I was honoured to be invited by Buckinghamshire New University to talk at their ‘Black History Month’ launch event on Monday 2 October 2023, alongside Orin Lewis OBE from ACLT (African Carribean Leukaemia Trust).
Special thanks to Margaret Rioga, who amongst other things heads up the university Race Equality Network and also Vice Chancellor Nick Braisby and all their team for thinking to invite Orin and I to address your University in this way.
Thank you also for the collaborative efforts that we are now working on…
To watch a recording, please see below.
#TeamMargot #togethersavinglives #BHM #TimeToDonate
Tomorrow marks the start of an entirely new month… Orgtober – organ donation education month – however by simply adopting this change in language, you can start TODAY!
Please read the personal Statement from our partner, Roydon Turner, Founder of the Orgamites Programme:
I am thrilled to introduce Orgtober, formerly known as October, our full month dedicated to promoting organ donation education among students, teachers, and families across the world (starting in Northern Ireland and Canada).
While the normal education curriculum will not be affected, this supplementary campaign seeks to breathe new life into organ donation education by: starting earlier, getting more families talking, celebrating the fundamental values that underpin organ donation (kindness, compassion and inclusivity), and having loads of fun while doing all of this!
As the founder of the Orgamites Programme, I am deeply committed to harnessing the power of education to foster positive change and, ultimately, save lives. Our primary goal for the programme is to instil core values such as kindness, compassion, and inclusivity in the hearts of our youth, all while nurturing their understanding of the human body and the vital role organs play in our lives.
If we’re to care about the planet, perhaps we should be equally concerned about each other first. At its core, Orgtober is a catalyst for change through education. We firmly believe that by empowering our children with knowledge, we can reshape societal attitudes toward organ donation. Our mission is clear: to amplify awareness about our organs, ignite crucial conversations about organ donation, and, in the long run, increase the number of life-saving donors.
This initiative is especially crucial because too many individuals, including children, lose their lives while awaiting life-saving organ transplants. Witnessing this suffering is a painful reminder of the urgency of our cause. Orgtober represents more than just a month on the calendar; it symbolises a beacon of hope for those in need.
The Orgamites have already made significant strides in Canada, Greece, and the UK, but
Orgtober elevates our vision to new heights. By launching Orgtober, Northern Ireland and Canada are leading the way in demonstrating to schools, organisations and individuals everywhere that it can be done. Together, we aspire to save countless lives, not just in these countries but across the globe.
One of Orgtober’s most powerful attributes is its ability to initiate conversations that matter. Families often grapple with the profound decision of organ donation without prior knowledge of their loved ones’ wishes. Orgtober aims to change this by encouraging children to initiate these discussions, creating a ripple effect that could save lives in the future.
Join us in this historic educational endeavour as we redefine organ donation awareness, spark life-changing conversations, and reshape the world one classroom at a time.
Founder, Orgamites Programme
For educational resources in Northern Ireland, please visit www.organdonationni.info
To learn more about the Orgamites, visit Orgamites.com
Source for statistics on organ donation in the UK: Independent.co.uk
#MightyOrgamites #Orgamites #OrganDonation #OrganDonationNorthernIreland
#DonateLife #CanadianBloodServices #NHSBT #TeamMargot #togethersavinglives
Unbeknown to me, Margot’s big brother, Oscar (16) joined the Organ Donor Register when he signed up for his provisional drivers licence.
Surprised and delighted to see this come in through the post, and during Organ Donation Week too…
Well done Oscar 🙌
At times like this, I remind myself how much you have grown in recent years and since narrating this video:
#organdonationweek #organdonation #organdonationsaveslives #togethersavinglives #teammargot❤️ #teammargot #youcansavealife
Updated September 2023
Since it’s inception and by the end of this calendar year, Team Margot Foundation will have made grants totalling £339,100, which is in addition to the £275,000+ raised & donated by Team Margot, prior to the formation of the charity.
This means that to date, Team Margot has either donated or made grants of over £614,100 to people, projects and charities close to our hearts.
Of course, the grants & donations made by Team Margot are only possible because of you and your generosity. On behalf of everyone involved at Team Margot and in particular the grant recipients, thank you.
What follows is a summary of how the grants have been made by Team Margot Foundation and how they came about.
Margot was at Great Ormond Street Hospital for several months and we know how hard life can be when caring for a sick child. A 2016 study highlighted the destructive financial impact by reporting that a third of cancer survivors are left in debt due to their treatment, inability to work or other factors and 3% are bankrupted by their illness.
Vicki and I saw this first hand during our time at Great Ormond Street Hospital with Margot. Families were struggling to make ends meet, all the while juggling commitments outside the hospital, with caring for their sick child.
You’ll note below that available funds have primarily been granted to families caring for child cancer patients. These one-off grants per family are made on a “no strings attached” basis and are for the family to use in any way they wish.
Over the last few years, these grants have come to be referred to as “Emergency Grants” by the hospitals we work with, because the application process is extremely simple and once the patient and family verification is complete & the recipient’s bank details have been received, the £1,000 grant is typically received within 24 hours.
We set out below the grant giving by Team Margot Foundation since establishing the charity in January 2015. The trustees of Team Margot Foundation are pleased to be making these one-off grants in the belief that they help in some small way. The graphs have been rebased following the trustees decision to report calendar year accounting periods, from 1 January to 31 December each year.
Initially, the charity made grants via Great Ormond Street Hospital in London only, however over the years we have expanded our network to the following 11 hospitals (helpfully, the latter 7 via the Kingston Hospital based charity, Momentum):
During the charity’s first year, there was a total of £8,100 granted by Team Margot Foundation, £5,100 to Momentum, to launch their family counselling services, with the remaining £3,000 being granted to three families caring for child cancer patients.
Momentum later reported that this initial grant of £5,100 helped eight families receive psychological services. Of these families:
• two families were dealing with the sudden death of a child
• one family was dealing with bereavement following an illness
• five families had a child with very challenging health diagnosis, such as relapse of a previous condition, a very poor diagnosis or introduction of palliative care to their child.
The charity made 30 one-off grants of £1,000 to families caring for child cancer patients, in 2016. At the time, these families were mainly based within the haematology wards at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the remainder were allocated with the help of our trusted referral partner, Momentum.
Bianca Effemey, founder and CEO of Momentum wrote to us at the time:
“I can’t even put into words what a wonderful gift Team Margot Foundation is to the families. At first I was not sure how this could be offered or how families would react. I want you to know that I see some of the stress instantly ease from these poor families faces as so often the money is such an issue and one does not like to talk about that as they feel it is wrong to express that on top of everything else that’s happening. You have helped so many people from this and it’s so private. Thank you. You donated funds to a couple of families who have since lost their child; they spoke to me and said it made such a difference and just relieved some of the pressure.”
The following is feedback from Barbara Inglin, a CLIC Sargent social worker based at Great Ormond Street Hospital (there’s also a short video from Great Ormond Street Hospital below):
“The support Team Margot provides is just brilliant because it is sensitive to the fact that when a child is seriously ill, families can have so many different needs and it can be difficult for them to identify the ‘priority’ need; the grants you give provide them with some much needed flexibility and choice! Thank you!”
In addition, a £5,000 grant was made in support of a leukaemia research project run by UCL in collaboration with Great Ormond Street Children’s Charity. This followed a £60,000 Team Margot donation in 2014, prior to the formation of the charity, Team Margot Foundation.
In infant leukaemia, 50% of babies will die in spite of very aggressive chemotherapy. Excitingly, the team has discovered a potential new targeted treatment. Research has shown that around 8 in 10 cases of infant acute lymphoblastic leukaemias (ALL) are driven by MLL (mixed lineage leukaemia) fusion proteins, which is produced inside the cancer cell. Guided by this understanding, Dr Jasper de Boer and his team has found that one drug in particular was extremely effective at destroying MLL fusion proteins in leukaemia cells in the lab and, crucially, halted their growth, killing the leaukaemic stem cells. These are the cells from which the leukaemia grows and are resistant to conventional chemotherapeutic drugs.
Dr de Boer’s current priority is optimising the drug formulation, before being able to commence a clinical trial in humans, however, there is already good evidence that this drug is safe to use in humans, as it has been on the market for many years. We will continue to track progress and update.
Furthermore, a donation of £10,000 was made to Shooting Star Chase, the leading children’s hospice charity that provided a place for Margot’s body to rest, prior to her funeral.
The following year, we saw a massive spike in the demand for these one-off £1,000 grants, which accounted for all available grant funds that year.
The trustees were delighted to approve the grant of £82,000 to families caring for child cancer patients, as we grew our hospital network and word spread that these funds were readily available.
However, as available funds rapidly depleted, the trustees had to take the difficult decision to close all grant making in the third quarter of that year. The trustees then implemented a new grant policy to safeguard against having to disappoint grant applicants in future.
This new policy altered the way in which the Team Margot Foundation makes grants, specifically by relying upon the hospital networks of trusted referrals and making planned allocations to them at the start of each year.
A further £30,000 was granted to an additional 30 families plus the trustees also made the decision to grant a further £2,000 to support a collective of sickle cell patients who actively recruit blood donors from the Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Minority Ethnic communities.
Specifically, there is an urgent need for an additional 40,000 black blood donors, because they are most likely to carry the much needed RO subtype of blood, which sickle cell patients need to remain clinically well.
The charity has exclusively made grants allocated to families caring for child cancer patients, via our now established network of eleven hospitals, as follows:
2020 proved to be a challenging year for all charities, including Team Margot Foundation.
The need for these ’emergency grants’ became ever more acute during 2020, owing to the pandemic. The charity commissioned an impact survey, working with our stakeholders and following this exercise, the trustees reviewed to what extent it was possible to continue the grants programme for 2021:
2022 £30,000 has been allocated to our hospital network, but to date only 8 of these grants have been made, the balance of funds are expected to be deployed prior to 31 December this year.
2023 £30,000 was allocated to our hospital network in January this year, and thanks to unexpected donations from Parkdean Resorts and The Hare & Hounds, East Sheen a further two grants were possible, making a total of £32,000 in grants this calendar year.
Accordingly, by 31 December this year Team Margot Foundation will have made 317 x £1,000 grants to families caring for child cancer patients.
Throughout, the trustees have received more lovely feedback from our hospital networks; a few examples are below:
“Thank you so much to you and everyone at Team Margot for the incredible support you have provided once again this year to families we work with. It makes such a difference for the families and has helped alleviate some really complex and difficult circumstances for them, allowing parents to focus their time and energy on the child undergoing treatment and their siblings, rather than having to worry about financial constraints.”
“We are very grateful for your very generous donations to our families. We try to give it to families who really need help and who would never ask either. One of my families whose child was very poorly at home were very overwhelmed when they received the money and they treated themselves to a coffee machine (which was something they would never have been able to afford) as they rarely left the house. I think for our families it is such a large and generous amount of money that can only help them, especially in these times when COVID also makes life more difficult.”
Team Margot Foundation’s grant giving function has no employees nor paid advisers and accordingly there are no salaries, nor expenses paid by the charity. The trustees are unpaid, as are all the many other wonderful Team Margot volunteers, fundraisers and supporters around the world. Consequently every penny raised and donated in support of this effort will go directly towards families caring for child cancer patients.
Were she still with us, Margot would have been celebrating her 11th birthday today.
To mark the occasion of her 10th birthday, last year I tried to compile a list of 10 videos to share, however there was so much material that I didn’t want to omit, the best I could do was to create a shortlist of 21 videos, which I’m sharing again today.
Please feel free to watch & share.
Happy birthday Margot.
We miss you x
Today, on World Blood Donor Day, 13 MPs attended a Parliamentary awareness event, organised by Sarah Olney MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion.
The event, held to raise awareness of the need to increase the number of registered blood donors in the UK, particularly from minority ethnic backgrounds, was attended by several existing donors, as well as many Parliamentarians and their staff.
The NHS’s Blood and Transplant division is aiming to recruit 140,000 new blood donors this year, with a target to ensure 12,000 of these are from black, asian, mixed and minority ethnic backgrounds. This is particularly important considering the rise in Sickle Cell disease diagnoses, which now number over 17,500 a year, which primarily affect these communities.
Speaking after the event, Sarah Olney MP said:
“It was fantastic to attend the event today to raise awareness of such an important cause. 18% of the UK population and 34.5% of our students are from ethnic minorities, it’s therefore clear that our National Health Service needs to do more to meet their specific health needs.
In blood transfusion, there are major healthcare disparities for mixed and minority ethnic patients. We must remember that without donors, we can’t make the necessary changes.”
#WorldBloodDonorDay #NothingHappensWithoutADonor #ThankYouDonors
Special thanks to the blood donors who took time out of their busy schedules to attend and speak to MPs about their experiences as blood donors: Gideon, Kishma, Lisa & Leigh, Holly, Brenda and Kate.
I was honoured to be invited to speak at another NHSBT blood donor recognition ceremony today, attended by 160 people at The Stoop, Harlequins Rugby ground.
The event was to celebrate donors who have either achieved 100 red cell donations or 250 platelet donations🙌😲
Interestingly, Andre pictured with me has a very rare subtype of blood which is needed to treat Sickle Cell patients: the Ro subtype of blood.
I met many super super donors (wonderful people) and shared the stage with Ginny Walker who told of her urgent need for blood after losing 60% of her blood during childbirth !
Such an uplifting day and one which I was delighted Rufus (now 14) attended with me.
Thank you to all blood, platelet and plasma donors !
Together, saving lives
27th March 2023
The recently formed All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion (ETT) announced the launch of Parliamentary Inquiry into the access to donors for those from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
The Inquiry was announced at the Groups inaugural launch in Parliament today to an audience in excess of 120 guests including donors, patients, donor and patient families, clinicians, charities, national donor registers, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), Department for Health and Social Services (DHSC), MPs and Peers.
Attendees were welcomed by award-winning TV presenter Jay Blades MBE and the Chair of the Group, Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, introduced the speakers:
● Jabeer Butt OBE, Chief Executive, Race Equality Foundation
● Professor Gurch Randhawa PhD FFPH DL, Professor of Diversity in Public Health and Director, Institute for Health Research
● Jay Patel, the father of Aari Patel who donated 7 organs and saved the lives of 2 other children, after he tragically passed away at the age of three
Announcing the Inquiry, Sarah Olney said “We live in an increasingly diverse world. Whilst 18% of the UK population is from an ethnic minority, this becomes 34.5% for pupils in primary and secondary schools. The NHS is not prepared for this diversity. Our NHS is focused on meeting the health and care needs of all people, however when it comes to transplant and transfusion, stark healthcare inequalities exist for mixed and minority ethnic patients. Because nothing can happen without a donor.
Our Group’s inquiry will explore why it’s so much harder for patients from diverse backgrounds to find suitable donors and make concrete policy proposals to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to find a donor irrespective of their ethnicity.”
Yaser Martini, from the charity Team Margot Foundation, said “Today’s event and the coming together of so many of those involved with and responsible for blood, organ, stem cell and bone marrow transplant and transfusion across the UK, illustrates the desire within this community to deliver a future where every patient, regardless of their ethnicity or heritage, is able to receive the same opportunity to benefit from a suitably matched transplant or transfusion.”
For more photographs from this event, click here.
About: Team Margot Foundation (charity no: 1160236) provides secretariat support to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion to raise awareness of health inequalities and to promote policy change to help save and improve more lives through greater ethnic donor participation.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion Executive members are:
Honorary President – The Baroness Benjamin DBE OBE
Co-Chair – Sarah Olney MP (LibDem)
Vice Chair – Bambos Charalambous MP (Lab)
Vice Chair – Mark Tami MP (Lab)
Feryal Clark MP (Lab)
Fleur Anderson MP (Lab)
Lord Evans of Rainow (Con)
Marsha De Cordova MP (Lab)
Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Con)
Team Margot Foundation had a bit of a landmark day on Tuesday 6 December when a new All-Party Parliamentary Group held its inaugural meeting.
The charity conceived of this idea (thanks to one of our team, Alan Miller pictured above, far right) and in the ensuing months set about making it a reality.
Team Margot Foundation is the Secretariat for this new All-Party Parliamentary Group : Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion and huge thanks must go to Paul Hegarty (pictured above, far left), a very experienced Honorary Secretary for the Beer Group for volunteering to be Honorary Secretary for our APPG, on a pro bono basis.
We are enormously grateful too to the MPs, Baroness and Lord who have supported the new Group and who are listed below. Special recognition and thanks must go to the Group Chair Sarah Olney MP and Megan Harding from her office, without whom the journey to holding an inaugural meeting might not have occurred so soon.
Our manifesto is below for your attention and it is followed by the official press release and some photographs.
As ever, thank you for your support.
Together, saving lives
A new All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion (ETT) held its inaugural meeting in Parliament today.
Chair, Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, said “The sad reality is that it is far harder to find a match for organ donation if you are from an ethnic or mixed-race background. The latest census data shows that 18% of the UK population is from an ethnic minority. It is vital that transplantation and transfusion services engage with ethnicities from all backgrounds if the NHS is going to serve our increasingly diverse population.”
Orin Lewis OBE, Chair of the National BAME Transplant Alliance and co-Founder of ACLT said “We are raising awareness of how the lack of donor participation affects patients with ethnically diverse backgrounds. Mixed and minority ethnic patients requiring an organ, stem cell or bone marrow transplant or a blood transfusion face enormous health inequalities. It is vital that there is equal access to transplants and transfusions for mixed and minority ethnic patients.”
“The new All-Party Group will advocate changes to encourage more donors to come forward from ethnically diverse communities to donate blood, organs, stem cells and bone marrow. This will help save and improve the lives of patients from all backgrounds across the UK.”
Team Margot co-founder, Yaser Martini BEM, said “I discovered the vital importance of donors when my own daughter, Margot, was diagnosed with Leukaemia at just 14 months of age. Whilst a donor was found for Margot and she had a transplant, the registers of unrelated donors are not sufficiently diverse and Margot’s mixed heritage was the main obstacle to finding her ‘perfect match’.”
“This new Parliamentary Group will work to ensure that we develop the right policies in the UK to ensure everyone is able to access the right treatment, whatever their ethnicity. To ensure that no more families have to face the tragedy of losing a loved one for the lack of a life-saving donor match.
6th December 2022
For more information contact Yaser Martini
firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 7770 672 559
About: Team Margot Foundation (charity no: 1160236) will provide secretariat support to the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion (ETT) to raise awareness of health inequalities and to promote policy change to help save and improve more lives through greater ethnic donor participation. Further information can be found on the Team Margot website
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion (ETT) Executive members are: Honorary President – The Baroness Benjamin DBE OBE; Chair – Sarah Olney MP (LibDem); Vice Chair – Bambos Charalambous MP (Lab); Vice Chair – Mark Tami MP (Lab); Officers: Feryal Clark MP (Lab), Fleur Anderson MP (Lab), Marsha De Cordova MP (Lab), Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Con).
I was privileged to speak at the Cancer52 Annual All Stakeholder Event in London on 12th October 2022, which was attended by the Minister for Health, Will Quince.
This event was marked by the launch of Cancer52’s report: Taking Action on Inequalities in Rare and Less Common Cancers: Understanding the Issues – which is available here.
The recording of this event was recently released and I’m sharing it with you via this link.
My slot begins at 29:40.
This was the first time I had really spoken publicly about the issues Vicki and I faced in getting an accurate diagnosis for Margot.
Thank you for watching and sharing.
Together, saving lives
The event was kindly hosted by Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, to celebrate Blood Donation & Black History Month.
Thank you to all who attended:
Ms Thangam Debbonaire MP
Ms Taiwo Owatemi MP
Mr Will Quince MP
Ms Diane Abbott MP
Sir Peter Bottomley MP
Ms Marsha De Cordova MP
Ms Florence Eshalomi MP
Ms Rachel Hopkins MP
Ms Paula Barker MP
Ms Apsana Begum MP
Ms Kim Leadbeater MBE MP
Ms Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Mr Bim Afolami MP
In particular, thank you to Lewis Williams and Sam Silver at NHS Blood and Transplant for inviting us & for running such a brilliant event.
Together, saving lives
Shortly after Margot was diagnosed with blood cancer, Vicki and I realised that we had a communication issue. Bad news travels fast and we had quickly become inundated and overwhelmed with enquiries from people who were all asking the same question: “how’s Margot ?”
So we set up a password protected website and asked people to visit the website for the latest update on how Margot was getting on.
Thereafter, whenever there was something to report, I wrote a new entry. These blog entries included updates on Margot’s treatment & how she was feeling, photographs, videos, medical notes, our thoughts and feelings. In the main, I found recording these updates practically useful and also personally therapeutic, however there were moments when it became a bit of an obligation and a millstone.
Vicki and I shared these website login details with family and friends who had enquired after our daughter. Sharing Margot’s blog helped bring some semblance of order to an otherwise chaotic time of our lives.
Margot was diagnosed with blood cancer on 7 October and every year since we have marked this date as the annual ‘Team Margot Donor Registration Day’, to help spread awareness and to encourage action. As a society, we still need many more blood, organ, stem cell and bone marrow donors; this remains the core focus of the charity.
However, Team Margot Foundation also provides a range of support to families caring for child cancer patients, not least because we know how hard life can be when caring for a sick child.
As part of this support, we felt there was merit in sharing Margot’s blog more widely. So today, on the anniversary of the date when our world was turned upside down, we are making Margot’s blog publicly accessible.
We haven’t attempted to pretty this up or change what’s written in any way. It’s clunky, pretty raw and some of it might well make for extremely dull reading.
However, by sharing this private blog, we hope that other parents and families might find something in Margot’s story that helps them cope a little better, when caring for a child with cancer.
Yaser & Vicki Martini
(please note: case sensitive)
I am extremely proud to announce that my brother, Margot’s father, Yaser has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022 for services to Stem Cell Donation.
Family & friends came together as ‘Team Margot’ in late 2013 when Yaser and Vicki’s daughter, Margot, was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukaemia. Margot’s best chance of survival was to find a matching stem cell donor and Team Margot ran an appeal to find Margot and other patients like her a ‘perfect’ donor match.
Yaser & Vicki led the charge working closely with me and Margot’s auntie Charlotte. Eventually, a ‘suitable’ match was found and bone marrow was donated by a 21 year old man in Germany, so enabling Margot to have her bone marrow transplant in February 2014. Unfortunately, Margot’s blood cancer was extremely aggressive and she relapsed and died aged 2 years 2 months old on the 27 October 2014.
Yaser co-founded the charity, Team Margot Foundation in January 2015 and has campaigned relentlessly over the years to educate, inspire and motivate people, especially those of mixed heritage, how they can literally help save the lives of others by registering as a stem cell or bone marrow donor. Yaser is a regular speaker at the NHS Blood and Transplant donor recognition ceremonies and is an active workshop contributor to the World Marrow Donor Association. All our family and friends feel hugely proud of Yaser and believe that this award is greatly deserved and I suspect that everyone at Team Margot will feel the same way too.
Whilst such an award is an honour, it reminds us of Margot’s absence. Margot’s inspiration and strength, love of life and her legacy is recognised with both the work of Team Margot and now with this British Empire Medal.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support Team Margot and to all those people who have registered as a donor.
Together, saving lives
“Over the years, those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented, and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives.”
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II
Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London 27 April 2022
It’s a very great privilege and honour to have been asked to speak today.
We haven’t met before, but given you’re at this event, I know you all to be very special people. And by addressing you here, I feel as though I have been given an opportunity to try and at least go some way towards expressing my gratitude, and my wife Vicki’s gratitude & thanks to the wonderful people who stepped up and provided for us, when we were in our time of need.
Frankly, I stand here speaking on behalf of all our family and loved ones. And I suspect that I’m also speaking for all the patients out there who receive blood, and their families too – because, of course, the patient and the patient’s family don’t ever get to meet their benevolent & selfless blood & platelet donors.
So this is as close as we’re going to get to saying thank you.
And because you don’t get to meet the patients to whom you donate blood, I hope you might find something in my daughter’s story that helps you relate to some of the desperate circumstances and situations that people find themselves in, when they need blood & platelets.
So what I’m going to do for the next few minutes is give you a brief glimpse into Margot’s story…
Dear Team Margot Supporter
Team Margot was a desperate reaction to a situation thrust upon our family.
Our progress since forming the charity has been homespun and the trustees recognise that going forward, in order to scale and remain strategically relevant, a more focused plan is required.
We are proud to share with you the Impact Report conducted by Skylark Works and Oxford University that many of you contributed towards – thank you again. This helps us better understand what we have done well and also identifies the “gaps” where we can do better.
To read our Impact Report in full and access the “at a glance” summary and infographic, please click here.
Three Year Strategic Plan
Following the recommendations made in the Impact Report and also a review of Team Margot’s values, vision and mission, we outline below what the charity is seeking to achieve and how we intend to execute our plan from now until the end of 2023.
The goals set, have been agreed by the trustees as ‘stretching’ but achievable over time. They represent the highest level of ambition, given realistic and available resources.
There has been a shift in focus from the early days of simply rallying for more people to join the stem cell register, to one that finds the team working towards educating young people about the importance of all forms of donation, including blood and organ donation in addition to stem cell and bone marrow donation.
In part, this work occurs via an education programme for children of primary school ages, with a particular focus on those from ethnically diverse communities – where the level of those registering as donors is dwarfed by those requiring donations.
Team Margot Foundation
At all times, we will hold honesty and integrity at the centre of our activities and act in a transparent, ethical and accountable manner.
We aim to be considered a kind, benevolent, and empathetic organisation that enriches the communities we work with.
Through strong leadership, support and a desire to collaborate for maximum impact, we will engender the respect of other charity partners.
As an organisation we are committed to being passionate and purposeful, yet patient, to be as impactful as possible.
Our actions will always be conducted whilst being mindful of our impact on the world at large.
A world where every human being in need, regardless of background, can equally access effective and timely donations of blood, organs, stem cells and bone marrow.
To help save and improve lives by educating, inspiring and motivating people, especially from ethnically diverse communities, to register as donors and to provide a range of support to families caring for child cancer patients.
1. Increase the number of Blood, Organ, Stem cell and Bone marrow donors
Lobby for a single, clear set of recruitment criteria for living stem cell & bone marrow donor recruitment in the UK
• To regularly meet with politicians & officials to pursue this goal
• Liaise with the existing UK registers & related stakeholder groups in this regard
• Ensure that Team Margot plays its part in the debates around bone marrow stem cell recruitment in the UK
Improve public knowledge and perception about donations
• “signposting” to accredited information relating to donation, via our various channels
• Regularly sharing information relating to the need for blood, organ, stem cell and bone marrow donations
• Myth busting inaccurate information about donations by sharing clear factual information about donation
• Continuing to contribute to the regular ‘World Marrow Donor Association’ workshops
To influence significant and meaningful change in attitudes towards registration
• By continuing to share Margot’s story
• Sharing information that underscores the need for more donor diversity
• Sharing stories relating to the need for more blood, organ, stem cell and bone marrow donors from ethnically diverse communities
• Introducing and educating primary aged children so that registering as a stem cell, bone marrow, blood and organ donor becomes a rite of passage.
Increase confidence about donations generally
• Sharing both donor and patient “success” stories
• Sharing “donor get donor” stories to help normalise this behaviour
To encourage confidence from people within ethnically diverse communities to talk about, sign up and donate
• by continuing our ongoing relationship with the Peer Outreach Team (part of the Education and Youth Team) at City Hall
• Sharing stories with visuals relating to the patient need within ethnically diverse communities
• Sharing success stories of people from ethnically diverse communities
Deliver an accredited education programme to Primary schools
• by maintaining and improving the existing ‘Giving to help others’ library of educational resources
• by retaining and continuing to build upon our existing relationship with Kidzania, London
• by engaging primary school teachers
• by engaging parents and carers to share the education programme within their children’s Primary schools
To Lobby for mandated education promoting donation in the Primary school curriculum
• To write to politicians and officials in pursuit of this goal
• Liaise with related stakeholder groups in this regard
To “keep the door open” to Team Margot’s ‘Proposal for the collection of Bone Marrow Stem Cells from deceased donors’
• To lobby NHSBT and other stakeholders to include and retain this proposal on their strategic agenda, with the longer term aim of practical adoption
2. Provide support for families or carers of child cancer patients
To continue and expand the provision of emergency grants for families or carers of child cancer patients
• To provide annual grant allocations for 2021 (x40), 2022 (x60) and 2023 (x100) via our hospital network of trusted referrers
• To share the free Parkdean Resorts holiday offer with families and carers of child cancer patients
To provide comfort and hope to families or carers of child cancer patients
• to continue to share Margot’s family story
3. Build the capacity of Team Margot
By seeking “annuity-type funding” to financially support the work of Team Margot Foundation on an ongoing basis
Review the human resource of Team Margot to ensure the capability to deliver the above
• Formulate a plan to deliver ‘Giving to help others’ to the c.23,000 UK Primary schools
• Seek support from our partners at NHSBT to establish what resources might be shared
Deliver the results of the human resource review
• by September 2021
Provide improved communication facilities for stakeholders
• Re-order & make changes to teammargot.com to improve clarity of message
• Communicate clearly what stakeholders and supporters can do to support Team Margot
Review the relevance of communications resources and implement results
• Consider recommended actions arising from our March 2021 Impact Report
• make improvements to ‘Giving to help others’ and Team Margot’s various channels to improve their relevance, monitoring & communication capabilities
For Team Margot to have an ongoing positive impact on the UK stem cell and wider donor registers
To engage regularly with stakeholders
To recruit more relevant trustees onto the board and in doing so, increase our talent bank, diversity and impact on our mission
Seek to increase our social media audience by 10% each year
Aim to have the ‘Giving to help others’ education programme adopted by the majority of primary schools in the UK
For Team Margot to be recognised as key players in the lobbying for a single, clear set of recruitment criteria for living stem cell and bone marrow donor recruitment
Regular meetings with politicians and officials linked with donation
Using our media channels to regularly share information relating to the need for blood, organ, stem cell and bone marrow donation
Aim to secure “annuity-type funding” to financially support the work of Team Margot Foundation
“Stem cell / Bone marrow transplants themselves are surprisingly unremarkable events, which belies their vital significance.
The bone marrow itself looks very much like blood and the transplant process itself is no different from the way in which blood transfusions occur… Public awareness & understanding of bone marrow transplants is poor and the procedure itself is often widely misunderstood. So, one of the key reasons for publishing this video is to help dispel some of the myths.
Margot slept through part of her bone marrow transplant, totally unaware of what was going on. There was no anaesthetic administered and you’ll note that it’s not an “operation”.
I wrote the above in this blog post on the first anniversary of Margot’s bone marrow transplant. Ever since her transplant on 21 February 2014, the date has become a moment in time when I tend to reflect on all that has happened, and also consider what lies ahead.
And in spite of the tragic negatives, the bad and sad, so much good & positivity has happened and been spread, thanks to you.
I’m addressing this post directly at you, because, whether you realise it or not, you ARE Team Margot, by virtue of your support & the actions you have taken. Your references to Margot’s story help spread the word.
It’s amazing because, as we have seen many times, simple conversations and actions can ultimately lead to life saving outcomes.
We set up the charity, Team Margot Foundation 3 months after Margot died, in her name and to honour her legacy. In context, my definition of ‘legacy’ is: a gift transmitted by a predecessor and this gift is one of life. Whilst you might not be eligible to donate your stem cells, blood or organs, that you have encouraged others to do so or have joined a register (regardless of whether you have actually donated), is your legacy in itself.
So, Margot’s legacy is your legacy too.
Late last year the charity began working with Skylark Works on Team Margot’s impact philosophy and I’m pleased to share this with you in the attached images.
Subsequently, in conjunction with Oxford University, we launched an impact study, funded by the National Lottery which is currently underway. The impact study comprises a survey, interviews and collaboration with our “stakeholders”… you.
To everyone who has / is still taking part in this piece of work, THANK YOU SO MUCH AGAIN for your time & inputs, which will help the charity understand how it’s doing by listening to the people we work with and also those whose lives we are trying to save and improve.
Together, saving lives
On behalf of all at Team Margot, I am delighted to share the fantastic news that the UK’s largest holiday park operator, Parkdean Resorts has selected Team Margot Foundation as its first corporate charity.
With 67 parks located in unrivalled locations, Parkdean Resorts is the UK’s largest holiday park operator and sells over 500,000 holidays and short breaks annually.
Steve Richards, Chief Executive Officer of Parkdean Resorts, said:
“Everything we do at Parkdean Resorts is centered on creating happy family memories for our customers and holiday home owners, so it was an easy decision to adopt Team Margot as our chosen charity for 2020.”
“Our team of 7,000 people located throughout the UK is looking forward to working closely with Team Margot to help raise awareness and funds for such a brilliant cause. We have a wide range of activities planned and are unashamedly ambitious about helping Team Margot positively impact families during their time of need. Supporting families, helping children and being proactive in the battle against children’s cancer is something we can all get behind.”
It’s thrilling for Team Margot Foundation to have such an exciting & comprehensive programme of events being lined up with Parkdean Resorts and we look forward to sharing more of what’s in store, in due course.
Together, saving lives
Dear Team Margot Supporter
Our family set up Team Margot Foundation three months after Margot died and last month marked five years as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation and over six years since we launched Margot’s appeal for her matching stem cell donor.
It’s a time of reflection and we have tended to use today, the anniversary of Margot’s bone marrow transplant in 2014, as a time to publish information about the work of the Charity.
By all accounts, Margot’s appeal was remarkable. At the time, it was credited as having been the most high profile global donor appeal anywhere in the world, embracing national and international TV, radio, print, online, outdoor media and Virgin America flights; Margot’s appeal was covered by the media in more than a dozen countries. During the first 6 weeks of Margot’s appeal, DKMS UK (previously named Delete Blood Cancer UK) received over 50,000 requests for swab kits in the UK alone, resulting in tens of thousands of people registering as stem cell donors.
As a direct result, every week since, on average one blood cancer patient has had the chance of a potentially life-saving bone marrow / stem cell transplant.
What’s also remarkable is that Team Margot is still campaigning for everyone who is eligible, particularly those of mixed heritage, to register as stem cell and bone marrow donors.
And because Margot needed many blood and platelet transfusions to keep her well during treatment and following the tough discussion my wife and I had about donating Margot’s organs, the Charity also promotes the need for more blood donors and organ donors too.
The Charity has primarily sought to encourage more stem cell registrations and the modus operandi has been to try and do less of the ‘on the ground’ registration events (although there were some 60 donor registration events held in the 12 months after Margot died, with many others since) and instead, more of the activity that might drive people online to register in large numbers.
This has included a diverse array of activities, amongst other things: publishing a song and music video with students from Elstree UTC & the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra called “Light The Way” (“an anthem for people with blood cancer“), a national campaign that included media appearances on TV & radio, a national billboard campaign, numerous adverts & media appearances such as appearing on the London Underground and UK railway network and an appearance on London’s world famous Piccadilly Lights. Other events have included a Parliamentary Reception at The House of Commons, a photographic Exhibition at City Hall in London, an expedition across Greenland, Mayors Question Time, three attempts at rowing across the Irish Sea (we made it third time lucky!), a documentary “Finding the Perfect Match” by Stephanie Gabbatt, several appearances at the Great River Race, a ‘Team Margot Ten Miler’ and most recently, the epic Atlantic Row and #WeRowYouRegister campaign.
Such reflection naturally leads on to more practical, current considerations and the trustees have been giving a lot of thought to the relevance of the Charity today and how it might continue to make a meaningful difference into the future.
Accordingly, going forward, the focus of the Charity will be on education, primarily via the ‘Giving to help others’ platform. This education programme, which has been conceived and developed in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant, is aimed at children of primary school ages and raises awareness of & encourages stem cell donation alongside other forms of donation, such as blood and organs. The Charity seeks to encourage schools, parents and guardians to download the free, teacher approved materials to begin the conversation and learn the facts about donation together with their pupils and children. The aim is to bring about long term culture change, particularly in the communities where the need is greatest, so that increasingly people register and are donors & ultimately for donation to become regarded as the norm, rather than being the exception.
Team Margot Foundation is first and foremost a campaigning charity, however it also has a grant giving function. The trustees are immensely grateful to the many people, schools & organisations for their generous donations and inspirational fundraising that has enabled the Charity to make 186 ‘one-off’ £1,000 grants towards families caring for child cancer patients. These grants are for the recipient families to use in any way they wish & they have come to be regarded as ‘emergency funds’ because the funds are approved and typically arrive within 24 hours, following receipt of the patient’s bank details.
On behalf of the recipient families, the various hospital networks & social workers who make the approval process so straightforward: thank you.
And as ever, thank YOU for your ongoing support.
Together, saving lives
In 2013, my daughter Margot was diagnosed with blood cancer and she needed a bone marrow transplant to stand the best chance of survival.
But a transplant isn’t possible without a donor.
In the search for her donor match, we learned that Margot’s mixed heritage was the reason why it wasn’t possible to find her ‘perfect match’.
People with a mixed heritage are the most disadvantaged when it comes to seeking a donor with a matching tissue type. Similarly, those from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are far less likely to find their match than a white Northern European patient, for instance.
The registers of stem cell and bone marrow donors are simply not large enough, nor are they sufficiently diverse. It is estimated that mixed race makes up only 3% of the registered bone marrow donors worldwide.
It’s complex; mixed race has no medical definition and because of varying perception’s of what ‘mixed heritage’ or ‘mixed race’ is, there is no common understanding. Moreover, how people choose to self identify and relate to this often determines whether they recognise the need to register as a stem cell and bone marrow donor.
Margot’s story underscores the importance of these issues; her heritage was a blend of Syrian, Armenian, Scottish, Thai, English and New Zealand, however none of this could be determined from simply looking at her.
The need for more donors of mixed heritage on the registers is only becoming greater and more necessary. Thankfully, the message is beginning to get out and today there are two campaigns running right now where mixed race patients are desperately seeking their perfect matching donors.
Please see Astrid & Peter’s stories below and SHARE.
Together, saving lives
Astrid has leukaemia and is desperately searching for a stem cell donor
But because of her mixed race, she faces a huge challenge
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) September 7, 2019
Tom [pictured – click here for his story] is just one of many people who signed up as a potential bone marrow donor because of Margot and went on to donate.
On average, there’s someone like Tom every week, who registered because of Margot or because of the efforts of Team Margot and who then goes on to donate peripheral blood stem cells or bone marrow.
These donations give hope and a second chance at life to patients, for whom there are no other options.
We love hearing these donor stories, however the vast majority of the donations are anonymous, so we always love to herald the few where the donors are willing to share their experiences.
Listen to Katrina talk about her experiences as a bone marrow donor, which is the much less likely form of donation.
On behalf of all the patients & their families & loved ones, THANK YOU and not just to Tom and all the donors listed here but also to EVERYONE who has joined the stem cell register & who supports Team Margot !
Statistically, we are told by DKMS UK that there will be more than 500 people, over 10 years, who will now receive a potentially life saving bone marrow transplant, thanks to the work of Team Margot, which is amazing.
Team Margot stem cell & bone marrow donor stories – click below to read more:
FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN SAVE A LIFE.
WHAT’S INVOLVED WITH A STEM CELL OR BONE MARROW DONATION
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A STEM CELL TRANSPLANT AND A BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT
HOW TO REGISTER
BECOME A BLOOD DONOR
REGISTER AS AN ORGAN DONOR
We set up Team Margot Foundation in January 2015, in memory of my daughter, Margot and to honour her legacy. A year earlier, Margot’s patient appeal for a bone marrow donor saw over 50,000 people in the UK alone requesting swab kits online, in order that they could join the register as potential donors. Margot’s appeal was covered by the media in thirteen countries and because Team Margot had built a following, we simply continued campaigning after Margot’s transplant, for the greater good.
Margot’s mixed heritage was the key reason we were unable to find her ‘perfect match’ and we soon learned about the stark disparity between the 69% chance of a White Northern European blood cancer patient finding their 10/10 antigen match and the 21% chance of a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic patient finding their equivalent match.
It turns out that the odds are worse still if, like Margot, you’re mixed race.
This under-representation of Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Minority Ethnic (BAME) donors on the worldwide bone marrow / stem cell registers is also the prevalent issue when it comes to the need for more blood and organ donors too.
Our work has revealed that Margot’s story resonates with children of primary school ages and that young children are able to recall salient details remarkably well.
We believe that tailored education and awareness for children of primary school ages (5-11) will ultimately result in two key outcomes:
We first trialled our assembly presentation ‘test of concept’ at the start of October 2017 and officially launched the programme and our initial findings later that month, working with the Education and Youth Team, at City Hall in London. The presentation materials, including powerpoint slides, teacher notes and short animated video are all available to use for free via givingtohelpothers.org
We recognise the need for our education and awareness programme to reach out to teachers, teaching staff and also parents and the wider school communities outside the classrooms, in addition to the children themselves.
During the course of the last few weeks, the ‘Giving to help others’ assembly presentation has been piloted in several primary schools within the London borough of Southwark. We have attended these assemblies, strictly as observers and are awaiting the analysis of the feedback forms received from 725 pupils and 22 teachers.
Thank you again to everyone involved. It’s a very fluid and iterative process, however I’m pleased to tell you that our learnings are already helping to inform next steps and how best to assess and encourage greater social impact, in order that more people sign up as potential stem cell donors, give blood and register as organ donors.
It took a loved one for me to change my own attitude and behaviour towards donation and I very much hope that others will embrace the culture and philosophy of ‘Giving to help others’, without first having to suffer their own family tragedy.
Together, saving lives