Journalists and industry figures have paid tribute to Adrian Sudbury, who died last night after helping thousands of cancer sufferers around the world understand the disease with his website, Baldy’s Blog.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes, saying today: “Adrian Sudbury was a true hero whose selflessness and courage made him an inspiration to all who knew him and to many who didn’t.
“Adrian’s campaign to raise awareness about blood, bone marrow and organ donation has already attracted thousands of supporters, myself among them, and his memory will continue to inspire action for many years to come.
“I spoke to Adrian last Wednesday and his campaigning spirit and his optimism remained undimmed.
“My thoughts are with his family at this time, and I know they will be proud that Adrian’s achievements will continue to help others after he has gone.”
Sudbury achieved remarkable success in his campaign to raise awareness of the shortage of bone marrow donors. His petition on the Number 10 Downing Street website received more than 10,000 signatures and he was invited to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Minister for Children Ed Balls.
Huddersfield MP Kali Mountford, who raised the question about Sudbury’s campaign in Parliament, said: “He was a true gentleman of courage and we all owe it to him to carry on what he started and make his fight a real success.
“I was fortunate to be able to work closely with Adrian to raise awareness of the need for more bone marrow donors and we had a whale of a time. He spent the whole time joking about what was happening and made it as easy as possible for people to work with him.”
His editor at the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Roy Wright, said: ‘He has touched more people and had a bigger impression than most of us will achieve in a lifetime.”
Within a few hours, nearly 100 messages had been left on an online book of condolence that was set up on the Examiner’s website this morning.
Sudbury’s parents Kay and Keith are arranging a private funeral but a public memorial will take place in three weeks’ time at Sheffield Cathedral.
Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, said: “Adrian was a wonderful colleague and quite simply a brilliant journalist and we shall never forget him. His story has touched all of us at Trinity Mirror and won the hearts of the nation.
“He showed tremendous strength and courage throughout his illness to raise awareness of bone marrow donation and always conducted himself with dignity and good humour.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of this hugely inspirational young man.”
Awards judges across the industry saw his work on Baldy’s Blog, where he chronicled the events of his treatment in great detail, as a testament to the power of online media in explaining complex and difficult issues.”
Bailey intervened to make sure that Sudbury’s colleague Liam McNeitlis could fly to Las Vegas, where Baldy’s Blog won the top international prize at the Weblog Awards in November with more than half a million votes worldwide.
Dr Steve McEwan, chief executive of The Anthony Nolan Trust, said: “I am very sad to hear the news about Adrian, he has been such an inspiration to everyone at the The Anthony Nolan Trust.
“Adrian made some remarkable achievements in such a short amount of time. Adrian spent the final few months of his life campaigning to recruit more bone marrow donors to the Anthony Nolan Trust’s register and inspired thousands of individuals to get in touch with the charity. We are indebted to him for raising much needed awareness about the shortage of donors. His incredible legacy is the people that he has inspired to contact the charity, who will go on to donate their bone marrow and save the lives of other leukaemia sufferers in the years to come.”
Julie Williams, acting director of donor services at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Our thoughts are with Adrian’s family at this sad time. Adrian’s campaign has inspired many people to think about saving lives through donation. We will continue to work hard to get the message out there that donation saves lives.”
The judging panel in the 2008 Regional Press Awards, which named him Digital Journalist of the Year in the category’s first year, said ‘the subject matter for this journalist is exceptional, compelling and emotional’and praised the blog’s professionalism.
They praised Sudbury for ‘really understanding the medium and the conversational nature of the readers in an extremely powerful way”.
He also picked up awards from the Guild of Health Writers, the Yorkshire Press Awards and the Daily Telegraph Science Writers Awards.
Things were looking up for Sudbury after a bone Marrow transplant in September. In a series of video diaries recorded before and after the operation at Sheffield Hallamshire.
Sudbury was suffering from two different kinds of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. After feeling ill in October 2006, Sudbury drove to hospital and was told that if he had not sought treatment he may have died within two to three weeks.
Though the bone marrow transplant was showed signs of success, within months the cancer cells had reappeared and Sudbury had contracted graft versus host disease, where the new organ cells attack the new body.
Sudbury wrote a piece for Press Gazette in December 2007 in which he had lost none of the self-deprecating humour that made his blog so popular.
He wrote: “These awards change nothing – I would swap it all tomorrow never to have been struck down with this disease, but I can’t express how great it’s been being a part of them.
‘Some people may joke that my head is getting big and – thanks to a ridiculously high dose course of steroids – they’d be right.
‘I think most journalists would agree when I say we like stories that are black and white – my double all-clear should have been the end of my story, but unfortunately it’s not.
‘My transplant worked, and there is no sign of the leukaemia, but now my new cells have decided to attack my body.
‘What is very hard to make people understand is that this new condition, called chronic graft vs host disease, is potentially just as life-threatening as the cancer itself.
‘However, I am feeling good at the moment and I’m functioning pretty well.
‘Even though my latest treatment only offers a 50 per cent chance of a long-term cure, if it doesn’t work then at least like I’ve gone down kicking and screaming, while fighting hard to make the best of what’s been an otherwise terrible year.”
Sudbury first earned a mention in Press Gazette in 2006 when he uncovered a charity scam in Huddersfield by tracking a mobile phone he sewed into the lining of a coat. Sudbury sold the coat to Help & Support Ltd on the understanding the proceeds would go to charity – but by trakcing the phone using online GPS technology he found it was sold for profit in Eastern Europe.
Cleverly, he wrote his contact details on the back of the phone. He told us: “It was a long shot, but it paid off because someone eventually called me. I had a bizarre conversation on Sunday with a woman from the Ukraine who said ‘I find your phone’ and it was a great moment. She told us she had bought the coat from a market and it was case closed.”