EVERY day, at least five people start their search for a matching, unrelated stem cell donor.

That is five people and their families who are clinging on to the hope that their life could be saved thanks to an easy, relatively pain free donation.

Three quarters of patients won’t find a matching donor in their families, so they turn to the Anthony Nolan Trust in the hope of the charity finding them an unrelated donor.

Yet only two per cent of people in the UK are registered as stem cell donors, compared to 13 per cent in Cyprus, 12 per cent in Israel and nine per cent in Germany.

Elliott Brock, from West Mersea, is among the UK minority and has most recently had his name cast into the limelight after he ran the London Marathon alongside the girl whose life he saved, Vicky Lawrence.

Elliott recalled: “All I saw at the time was a poster saying we want young men to join the register - if you are a match, you could save their life. It was a bit ‘What’s not to like really’.”

That was in 2000. It was another eight years before Elliott was to receive a call about a potential match, having forgotten all about signing up to the register.

Elliott had to undergo the most common of stem cell donation procedures, whereby he had four daily injections in his stomach leading up to the transplant for him to produce bone marrow cells.

“On the day I went to Harley Street Hospital and it was four hours like being on dialysis. I was just lying there watching a bit of telly and that was that.

“All they said at the time was we have collected enough for a young girl.”

But the procedure itself was largely painless. The blood was taken out of one arm, run through a machine which collected the required cells, and then it was returned to Elliott’s body.

Elliott likened the scenario to giving blood and recalled feeling “slightly achy”.

Elliott, now 42, added: “I even spent one of my ‘recovery days’ on the golf course.”

Some months went by before Elliott heard about the outcome of his donation. Not all donors hear anything at all.

He then received two letters from Vicky, the donor recipient, as well as a request to meet up with her and her family.

“At the time, I felt happy in the knowledge that all was well with Vicky’s recovery and politely declined.”

In fact, as a result of his donation, Vicky was home for Christmas and even visited her school.

“As the years passed, I did start to think of Vicky and was keen to know how she was getting on.

“We had just moved to Mersea and I hadn’t got round to changing my address with Anthony Nolan, so I was very lucky that the people who had moved into our old Colchester house kindly kept our mail as Vicky wrote to me just as I was about to write to her.”

It turned out Vicky was aged eight at the time of Elliott’s donation to her and had been suffering from blood cancer. Her only hope was a bone marrow transplant. If a match had not been found soon, she might not have made it to that Christmas.

Despite their 21-year age gap, the pair found they share many things in common, including both hailing from the West Midlands, and liking sport. While Elliott works as a physiotherapist, Vicky is a medical student in Newcastle.

Elliott met up with Vicky about four years ago shortly after his first son, Reuben, was born and they met up a few times since.

Elliott, who is married to Caroline, said: “We have got a lot in common. We are bounded by DNA. Vicky is a force of nature. She really is living life to the full.”

It was Vicky’s idea for the pair to run the 26.2-mile marathon and which helped cast their success story into the national limelight, despite Elliott’s story being reported closer to home in recent years.

“It was very emotional,” said Elliott, now a dad of two, after completing the marathon earlier this month and more than 12 years after his donation saved her life.

“Everyone was shouting ‘marrow man’ all the way around, which was quite funny. But the marathon was a lot more painful than donating bone marrow was.”

The Anthony Nolan Trust is a pioneering charity that saves the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders.

It uses its register to match individuals willing to donate their bone marrow or blood stem cells to people who desperately need lifesaving transplants.

It needs more men aged 16 to 30 to sign up as they are underrepresented on the register. Young men currently make up only 18 per cent of the register, but they provide 55 per cent of all donations.

However, the charity urgently needs more people from minority ethnic backgrounds to sign up as stem cell donors. Patients who are white Caucasian have a 71 per cent chance of finding the best match from an unrelated donor. This drops to a 37 per cent chance for patients from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Last year it helped about 1,300 people receive a stem cell transplant - getting a second chance of life.

To join the register, you must be aged between 16 and 30, weigh more than 7st 12lbs (50kgs) and be in general good health.

When you join, you will be asked to complete a form to check for eligibility.

90 per cent of people donate via their bloodstream like Elliott did while the remaining 10 per cent donate through their bone marrow, whereby cells are collected from their hip bone while under a general anaesthetic.

Visit anthonynolan.org to find out more or become a donor.