You Are the Match

By NIKIA BROWN

KENNESAW, Ga ― At some point in your life you or someone you know may be diagnosed with an immune disorder, leukemia or a genetic disorder; you will want to know about all the possible options available to promote a healthy outcome.

In recent years, donations of marrow have helped save the lives of people suffering from blood cancers. Marrow donations are important and often life-saving treatments for afflicted people and their families.

Be The Match is the nation’s largest marrow donor organization. Its goal is to provide more awareness about the donation of bone marrow; the organization strives to match donors with patients to help save lives.

To donate marrow, a potential donor must join the organization’s registry, thereby agreeing to meet its health requirements and donate marrow to any patient in need. With a swab of the cheek, cells are collected to determine which patient a donor will match; patients and donors usually match if they share the same ethnicity or ancestry. More
donors of minority groups are needed.

There are several myths about bone marrow donations: one being that donating is painful; another that it’s a surgical procedure -both of which are not completely true. The organization does, however, prescreen all donors before any procedures are done to ensure
the safety of all parties involved.

There are two approaches to donating marrow. The most common and least evasive is the peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). This method is a nonsurgical procedure. Prior to donating, the donor receives an injection to increases the cells in the bloodstream. Similar to giving blood, a needle is placed in the donor’s arm, which passes through a machine that
separates the needed blood cells and returns the remaining blood to the donor.

The second approach is donating bone marrow surgically, the donor receives an anesthetic and doctors use a needle to withdraw marrow from the back of the pelvic bone. The patient’s doctor determines which of the two methods is best for the patient.

“Though no medical procedure is without risk, there are rarely any long-term side effects donating either PBSC or bone marrow,” said Nadya Dutchin, National Account Executive of Be The Match.

Another myth of marrow donation is that most patients have a match within their family. The fact is that more than 70 percent of people with blood cancers rely on Be The Match to find their positive marrow match. This myth has contributed to the shortage of registered
donors.

Be The Match encourages everyone to donate. Most physicians choose donors that are 18-44 years old. Donors between these ages provide the best chance for transplant success. But anyone between 18 and 60 who meet the health guidelines can donate bone marrow.

There is no cost for the donor to donate marrow.

The registry of donors has doubled in the past decade, but he number of minority donors remains low.

“The National Bone Marrow Donor Program has 10,000,000 individuals registered, but only 7 percent are black,” Dutchin said.

Be The Match has partnered with celebrities such as Good Morning America anchorwoman, Robin Roberts, and Atlanta rapper T.I.’s organization, Marrow Up to reach potential donors of minority groups.

Marrow Up is an organization appealing to younger people and minority groups by focusing on students who attend historically black colleges and universities. While at a Marrow up fundraiser luncheon, Malcolm Brown recalled hearing a story from a young man diagnosed with sickle cell anemia.

“A young man suffering from sickle cell anemia spoke to us about how he couldn’t finish school or work anymore because of the pain his disease caused,” Brown said.

Dutchin stressed that even though there is a major push on historically black colleges and universities, that does not mean other colleges and universities around the nation are any less important.

Be The Match encourages everyone to get involved with bone marrow donations and
to become registered marrow donors.

Be The Match has made great strides to bring awareness to bone marrow donations and the positive impact it can and has had on the lives of people affected with blood cancers. Be The Match, Marrow Up, and similar marrow organizations all face a great need for minority and multiracial donors.

These organizations ask that you help save someone’s life – it could be your mother, best friend, or even you in need one day. Join the Be The Match registry and take the first step to saving a life.

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