Saturday, May 4, 2013

Be the Match

Robert Guerrero
photo from

I find that I complain about the local news here in Iowa. More often than not, the feature stories are about blue ribbon pies or showcases on the school spirit of a local high school. While perhaps heartwarming, it is often overwhelmingly boring.

And then I think how foolish I am for complaining about this. I’m pretty lucky that we hardly ever get to hear about murders or robberies or burglaries. We get to highlight events in the community and our crazy Iowa weather.

I realized this while reading an article in the national news earlier this week about a student athlete who was asked to donate bone marrow to a dying stranger. Rather than focus on the Boston bombings, North Korea missile threats, or Syrian uprisings, I was inspired to read the story of hope and sacrifice by a young college athlete. The timing of the donation was devastating to his career as a college shot putter. It would be right in the midst of his senior season and put him out of the running for the regional championships. In a society that tells us to “go for your dreams no matter what,” this boy realized that saving the life of another, even a stranger, was more important than his own personal dream.

I may never have the opportunity to do something like that, but over 4 years ago I also joined the Be The Match Registry. I usually forget all about the registry (until reading articles like this) as the chance of being called upon to donate is very low. But, knowing there is a chance I could be the only person (except maybe my twin sister!) who can save someone from their cancer, I hope I will be willing and able to help. I can’t imagine the agony a patient and their family must go through hoping to find a match that is out there but maybe not on the registry. If it were you or your kid, I think you’d want as many people to join as possible.

If you are interested in joining the registry to help save the life of a dying patient, go to their website to get more information about joining. I’m going to set up a poll on my blog and hope to track any new members to the registry. It’s not every day you get to feel like you are making a difference by basically doing nothing! I hope we can get 100 readers to join.

Here are a few of the FAQ from the website I thought could be helpful:

Q: Why is there a need for people to join the Be The Match Registry? A: Thousands of patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases depend on the Be The Match Registry® to find a match to save their life.
Patients need donors who are a genetic match. Even with a registry of millions, many patients cannot find a match. Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially needed. To learn more, see The Need for Donors.

Q: What is my commitment if I join?
A: When you join the Be The Match Registry, you make a commitment to:
  • Be listed on the registry until your 61st birthday, unless you ask to be removed
  • Consider donating to any searching patient who matches you
  • Keep us updated if your address changes, you have significant health changes or you change your mind about being a donor
  • Respond quickly if you are contacted as a potential match for a patient
You have the right to change your mind about being a donor at any time. Donating is always voluntary.

Q: How likely is it that I will donate to someone?
A: Doctors choose donors based on what is best for the patient. About 1 in 540 members of the Be The Match Registry in the United States will go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) to a patient. We cannot predict the likelihood that an individual member will donate

Q: Does race or ethnicity affect matching?
A: Racial and ethnic heritage are very important factors. Patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. Today, there simply aren't enough registry members of diverse racial and ethnic heritage. Adding more diverse members increases the likelihood that all patients will find a life-saving match. Members of these backgrounds are especially needed:
  • Black or African American
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian, including South Asian
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Multiple race
Q: What is the donation process like?
A: Adult donors may be asked to donate in one of two ways:
  • Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the back of the donor's pelvic bones using special, hollow needles. General or regional anesthesia is always used for this procedure, so donors feel no needle injections and no pain during marrow donation. Most donors feel some pain in their lower back for a few days afterwards.
  • Peripheral blood cell (PBSC) donation involves removing a donor's blood through a sterile needle in one arm. The blood is passed through a machine that separates out the cells used in transplants. The remaining blood is returned through the other arm.

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