I know. I know. I was supposed to write about Volunteer Vacations today like I promised. I will get to it next month, but I was inspired on Monday to write about something else.
That’s when I was watching Good Morning America and heard the plea from Sam Champion for people to join the Be the Match Registry. It struck me because I had just joined and gotten my membership card in the mail a couple of weeks ago.
He was asking because Robin Roberts, one of the show’s anchors, has contracted MDS, short for myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood disorder that affects the bone marrow. Roberts is a breast cancer survivor.
I admire her for all she’s been through and she is one of the lucky 30 percent that have a sibling with an appropriate match for bone marrow. But 70 percent of the time, a sibling’s marrow does not match.
That means thousands of patients with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases need genetic matches for peripheral blood cell (PBSC) or marrow donation. That’s where Be the Match comes in.
Formerly the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) Registry, Be the Match coordinates between patients who need bone marrow or PBSC donations and donors who can provide them.
If you’re interested, you can find out at the Be the Match website how to sign up and get a registration kit sent to you in the mail. When it arrives, you will use four large swabs (which are kind of like big Q-tips) to brush the inside of your cheeks to collect cells. You send the swabs in and later will get a membership card in the mail. That’s it.
They’re especially looking for people aged 18 to 44 who are African American, American Indian, Alaskan, Asian, native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino or multiple races. There are some medical guidelines to follow to make sure you’re in good enough health to donate.
Doing PBSC means that blood is taken from your body, processed to take out needed components and then returned. No surgery is needed and your body feels normal again in a couple weeks. For bone marrow donation, surgery is done but you will feel normal within three weeks and your body will replace the marrow in four to six weeks.
According to Be the Match, on average about one in every 540 registered donors actually matches someone and is asked to donate. To find out more, read the Be the Match FAQs.
In the meantime, you can consider what it might be like to save someone’s life. Many times there’s no cost to join the registry, but they’re always looking for monetary donations. It didn't cost me anything to join. You might never be asked to donate, or you could be the one who makes the difference in someone’s else’s life.