You could be “the one.” Chances are you’re the match who could benefit your kin and kind with a life-saving donation. Every day, thousands of patients with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases hope for a marrow donor who could make a transplant possible for them. Black Americans can help one another by becoming activists and participants in bone marrow donations.
Hundreds of thousands of African Americans long for a bone marrow transplant. Over the past 40 years, bone marrow and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation have been used with increased frequency to treat numerous malignant and nonmalignant diseases. The transplantation success rate is tempered by the fact that the chance of finding a match remains close to 93 percent for Caucasians, but as low as 66 percent for African Americans. The tissue types used for matching patients with donors are inherited, so patients are most likely to find a match within their own racial or ethnic heritage. African Americans need to participate in greater numbers in “Be The Match” programs. It’s not a decision the government has to make, in this instance African Americans have the power to help themselves. Involvement in the “Be The Match” Registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) enables African Americans to help patients with life-threatening diseases receive much needed transplants. The more African Americans who participate in “Be The Match” programs and events, the more African-American bone marrow will be available among transplantation programs.
Increasing the national registry rolls requires a movement of volunteers from across the country to: plan and coordinate local bone marrow donation events; spread the word; share stories of patients in search of a match and fundraising. One such connection exists between the National Marrow Donor Program and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF). Throughout the month of July, they are raising awareness about the critical need for African Americans to join the “Be The Match” Registry. Growing numbers of African Americans are in need of a transplant. Every year, more than 10,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases for which the best option for a cure could be a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor or donated umbilical cord blood unit. The National Marrow Donor Program is a leader in the field of unrelated marrow and umbilical cord blood transplantation. The NMDP mission is to ensure all patients who need a transplant receive access to treatment. The organization coordinates the collection of hematopoietic ("blood-forming") cells that are used to perform transplants. Patients who need a hematopoietic cell transplant but who lack a suitably matched donor in their family can search the “Be The Match” Registry for a matched unrelated donor or umbilical cord blood unit. The NMDP is headquartered in Minneapolis and manages the “Be the Match” Registry. In its organizational structure, the NMDP operates the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program to provide a single point of access to marrow donors and umbilical cord blood units for a global network of hospitals, blood centers, laboratories and recruitment centers. Since 1987, NMDP has facilitated more than 40,000 transplants.
More African Americans are needed to enlarge the pool of people who facilitate bone marrow transplants. Too few African Americans know how to help with bone marrow donations. According to medical experts, the majority of donation cases involve no surgery, because in most instances doctors request a non-surgical peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. In cases where the marrow donation is a surgical procedure, most donors go home the same day. Generally, people who donate marrow receive general anesthesia and feel no pain during procedures. Most marrow donors are back to their normal activities in two to seven days. The “Be The Match” program is worth checking into, in most cases the program will reimburse travel and other costs associated with donations. For information on the “Be The Match” Registry® contact: the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), 3001 Broadway Street N.E., Suite 100, Minneapolis, Minn. 55413-1753 – www.marrow.org
(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org)