Have you heard of Be The Match, the world’s largest and most ethnically diverse stem cell donor registry? Well, I didn’t either prior to my acute leukemia (acute myeloid leukemia) and stem cell transplant, and I worked in the healthcare sector for years as an ICU nurse then clinical analytics. Promoting Be The Match is personal so let me share with you my story.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MY BACKGROUND & MEDICAL HISTORY
Professionally, I am a nurse and artist (painter). I worked in critical care, created a few businesses, and worked in clinical analytics, and absolutely loved it! I was healthy, active, with no chronic illnesses, and on zero medications. Then, the sky fell in 2016. I was on a work project, a Six Sigma project, and suddenly didn’t feel well. So I went home. And that was the last day I went to work. Thinking the flu was the culprit, I went to bed to ride it out. But my symptoms continued to get worse with each passing day. So I went to my local ER and was admitted inpatient. And there is where I stayed for 4 weeks. During those weeks, I was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia. Needless to say, I was pretty sick. Aggressive chemotherapy started immediately and I was told I needed a stem cell transplant otherwise I would die. So the process of finding a stem cell donor began.
When you need a stem cell transplant, the transplant physician immediately starts the search for a 100% matched tissue donor. Your patient and tissue/cells matching information are sent to Be The Match to search its database of registered donors for a 100% unrelated donor. At the same time, your siblings are tested to see what percentage match they are to you, i.e., based on tissue matching. Your siblings are either 100% or 50% tissue match to you. One of my brothers was a 100% match for me. BUT, I learned from my transplant physician that there was a 100% unrelated donor registered with Be The Match should my brother not be a suitable donor; there are health criteria potential donors must meet before donating stem cells. The idea that a complete stranger willingly goes through the process of donating stem cells is unfathomable. Deep inside the core of who you are, you will always have a special space for your donor, whether related or unrelated.
When people hear the word, transplant, they automatically think of major surgery such as liver or kidney transplant. This is not true. Donating stem cells is a procedure. The method of donating stem cells is easy, convenient, quick and low risk compared to other types of organ donation. It is NOT like other organ transplants where donors go through major surgery. I repeat, donating stem cells is a procedure, not surgery, and is much less risky with much shorter recovery time.
AGE AND MEDICAL GUIDELINES FOR REGISTERING AT BE THE MATCH.ORG:
–Be between 18 – 44 years old. If you are, you are the cure for patients diagnosed with high-risk blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. Leukemia does not discriminate…it is an environmental disease and can affect anyone – young, old, female, male, LGBT, any ethnic group, in any country.
–Be committed to donating to any patient in need.
–Meet the HEALTH GUIDELINES…click here for an easy one page PDF.
HELP SAVE SOMEONE’S LIFE…REGISTER WITH BeTheMatch.org AS A DONOR
–Log onto Be The Match webpage to join Be The Match Registry -> choose ‘Join Online’. Be The Match will mail a cheek swab kit to you. Follow the instruction carefully, and mail it back within 1 to 3 days; there is a time limit to how long your DNA is active.
–View this excellent instructional video from Be The Match on how to use the cheek swab kit – click here.
STATISTICS IN FINDING A MATCHED ADULT DONOR ON BETHEMATCH.ORG REGISTRY:
If you are caucasian, your chances of finding a match (DNA match) at Be The Match is 77%. That means more Caucasian patients, than any other ethnic group, are matched with a registered marrow donor, and that is excellent news!
Other ethnic group donors are less than 60%, most likely is due to a lack of awareness of what BeTheMatch.org does and their mission in saving people’s lives from leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers.
A FEW QUESTIONS BY DONORS:
There are always questions by donors on how it will affect them, such as “What’s Donation Like, Will It Hurt, Are There Any Risk Factors”…click here to get answers to your questions or call Be The Match Contact at 1 (800) MARROW-2 (1-800-627-7692) Monday–Friday (8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. CST).
When donating stem cells, it will be peripheral 80% of the time – see picture below.
Leukemia does not discriminate based on age, gender or ethnic group. Leukemia attacks the very young (childhood leukemias) to the very old, every ethnic group, and every gender group. It (leukemia) has no boundaries!
Make a difference in someone’s life…please become a stem cell donor.
When you register as a donor, you are saving a person’s life. AND every person in the patient’s inner and outer circles…family, friends, colleagues, social groups, associates, neighborhoods, college mates, children, local communities, businesses…see what I mean?
Contact Be The Match at 1 (800) MARROW-2 (1-800-627-7692) Monday–Friday (8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. CST)
- Questions on medical guidelines
- Questions on your commitment related to joining the registry
- Difficulty with the registration process