Friday, June 6, 2008

A PSA: Consider joining the bone marrow registry

This morning I was doing my usual blog crawl when I came across this piece from Angry Asian Man (click on this link).

Basically, racial/ethnic minorities are very underrepresented in the national bone marrow registry. So the Asian American Donor Program is trying to do something about this. If you go to this link (click here), you can order a home-kit, FOR FREE (normally they are around $30-60 I think), if you are a member of an ethnic/racial minority (all or in part--that's the language of their site).

Regardless of your background, please consider joining the bone marrow registry. It's really a simple process--you swab your cheek, seal it up, and mail it back. There are several bone marrow transplant drives that will be occurring in urban areas (and you can always check your local hospital, especially if you live near a teaching hospital) but really, please do consider doing it.

I have 2 friends who have had bone marrow transplants, and one is currently undergoing this process. They are all white Americans, but finding a match was none-the-less nail-biting. The odds get worse when you are a member of an ethnic/racial minority. For example, only 3% of Asian Americans are part of the registry. And although ethnic similarity is not a lock-in for matching tissue/blood (a close friend, who is of Korean ancestry received a liver transplant from a Euro-American), apparently it helps.

A lot of people talk about wanting to make a difference--taking this small step means you are.


Tamu said...

My brother needs a bone marrow transplant and I do not match him.

We are African Caribbean = hard to type. One of the reasons is most people from the Caribbean are have people in their family tree from distinct parts of the human family tree.

Some things for people to consider:

There are 650 000 people in China registered and this is a shortage.

In Canada, the number of Chinese registrants is 233, as of the end of March. That is 0.1% of the registry. Numbers are low in every part of the world.

In Canada, many other Asians on the register are lumped in a group called "Asian - Other" so it is likely it is a cumulative total of ethnic groups that do not even total 233 people.

People can help in any country with a registry. You will not have to leave your city if you are called upon to donate.

Donation is one of two procedures. If everything you know about transplants is from TV, I can tell you they got most of it wrong. The level of pain is a myth, bone is not extracted, they do not operate on your spinal cord, it does not require a lengthy hospital stay. Here are the two ways to donate if you are found to be a match. Registering is just a blood sample or cheek swab, depending on where you live.

Most people will not match anyone in there family - about 70% of cases. If someone you knew needed one, wouldn't you like to know that people were willing to help a stranger? Are you willing?

Brian Hunt said...

I joined the registry back in the mid 1990s and remarked one day in 2001 to my girlfriend "I'm surprised I haven't been contacted based the shortage of African American donors." Out of sheer coincidence three days later my Mom called me and told me that the National Institute of Health left a message with her for me to contact them for further matching because there was a leukemia patient that was in need. We were a match, and I was able to donate my bone marrow to a then 11 year old boy. The process is completely anonymous unless both parties agree to share information after one year. I'm still in touch with my recipient to this day. The process was simple and modern techniques made it almost completely pain free. I went to work the next day. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for leaving a comment and letting us know about your family/brother--I truly hope that a match is found for him very quickly--and I appreciate the links and facts that you've given us--it's important for us to remember that there are misconceptions about marrow transplant that aren't true.

And Brian, thank you for sharing your own personal story and, like Tamu, dispelling some myths about marrow transplant (that it's painful) and for providing a real story and "face" to how important joining the registry and potentially becoming a match can be (and how even, years later, you can change someone's life--and maybe even your own--for the better, forever).