Two years ago Nicholas underwent a Bone Marrow transplant to help cure him of leukemia. Thanks to Clifton, Nicholas is now a healthy 7-year-old boy who enjoys music, tennis, soccer and golf. Nicholas got to meet Clifton a few weeks ago for the first time. This is no ordinary friendship. People of color have a 66% chance of finding a bone marrow match. Because the human leukocyte antigens (HLA) used for determining a match are linked to ethnicity, patients are most likely to find a match within their own ethnic group. In a database of 16 million donors, Clifton was a 100% match for Nicholas. The match and the relationship are truly a miracle.
Bone marrow transplants help cure some 60 different illnesses including forms of leukemia, lymphoma, blood cancers. About 30 percent of the people who need marrow transplants have a relative, usually a brother or sister, who can donate. Only 30 percent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant have a matching donor in their families. The remaining 70% of patients depend on finding an unrelated person with similar marrow. Unfortunately, the number of available donors in non-white ethnic groups is considerably smaller than in white ethnic groups. To improve the chance of finding a match for everyone, it is vitally important that registries include donors from all possible ethnic groups.
Here are some things I bet you didn’t know about being a bone marrow donor:
- Leukemia kills more children every year than any other cancer.
- To register as a bone marrow donor, a person swabs the inside of his or her cheek in order to provide the DNA needed to identify if he or she is a bone marrow match for someone.
- 6 out of 10 patients never receive the unrelated transplant (a transplant from a non-family member) that they need
- Only 2 percent of population is on the national registry.
- If an African-American finds a match on the registry, there is an 80 percent chance that the identified donor is the only match on the registry.
- Donating bone marrow can occur in one of two ways: 1) Blood is taken out of a donor’s arm. That blood is put in a machine, and stem cells are separated and the blood is returned through the other arm. 2) A donor has marrow cells extracted from the hip bone. A doctor will determine which donation process is necessary.
- A patient’s likelihood of finding a donor that will give them bone marrow ranges from 66%-93%, depending on race or ethnicity. The likelihood of finding a donor is estimated at:
66% for African-American patients
72% for Hispanic or Latino patients
73% for Asian and Pacific Islander patients
82% for American Indian and Alaska Native patients
93% for White patients
- After donation, bone marrow replaces itself within four to six weeks.
- To be a bone marrow donor in America, a person should be between 18 and 60 years old and in good health.
- Donors giving from their hip bones are put under anesthesia, and therefore they do not feel pain during the collection procedure.
- At least 1,000 people die each year because they cannot find a matching donor.
I signed up to be a bone marrow donor 2 years ago. Every person who joins the registry gives patients more hope of finding the match they need. Do your part to save a life. Sign-up to be a bone marrow donor today!