A Time for Heroes

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Many of you know how exciting it is to bring a new life into the world. You come home from the hospital ecstatic, exhausted, and maybe a little overwhelmed at the thought of learning all there is to learn about loving and protecting this beautiful child who has been dropped into your life like your own personal miracle. But alongside the excitement, an anxiety is born, and you realize within the space of your baby’s first few breaths that your new worst fear is that something could happen to your precious child.

For thousands of parents, that fear is realized the week they notice that their infant has been inexplicably losing weight, or the day that their four year old starts running unexplained fevers and experiencing night sweats, or when their sixteen year old has a seizure at school. Their concerned visit to the doctor’s office leaves them reeling, while one word plays over and over through their minds: “leukemia”.

Imagine that you are one of those parents, terrified and doubtful of the future, knowing only that you’ll do whatever it takes, spend whatever it costs, and ask whoever you need to ask for help for your son or daughter.

Now imagine finding out that there is hope.

Because there is. For many children and adults afflicted with cancer, a bone marrow transplant can be the promise of recovery, health, and a new future where once there was only uncertainty.

The only problem is finding a donor. The odds of the average patient finding a matching bone marrow donor within the general population are roughly 1:20,000. Those odds grow longer when the recipient has a unique blood type or a rare genetic makeup. Most patients wait several months for a potential donor to be found. Some wait longer. And for some, the wait is just too long.

But you can help! The National Marrow Donor Program keeps a database of potential donors on file, and as the number of willing bone marrow donors grows, so does the hope of a second chance for those afflicted with leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, immune deficiency disorders and countless other diseases.

It’s really easy to join the registry as a volunteer bone marrow donor. After filling out a registration form with your contact information and health history, a simple cheek swab or small blood sample is taken and sent off to determine your tissue type before your information is added to the database. Your information is kept on file indefinitely. If, one day, someone in your family needs a donor, your test results will already be available in the database to see if you could be a match. Usually, the donor contributes the cost of the tissue typing test (between $50 and $75), but right now, from May 7th to May 21st, the National Marrow Donor Program is having its annual Thanks Mom Marrow Donor Drive, and the cost to you is zero. Absolutely FREE!

Once you’re in the registry, it may be anywhere from a few weeks to many years before you are matched with a patient, if ever. You’ll be contacted at that time to make sure you’re still interested in being a donor. You can withdraw your name from the registry at any time. The donation procedure is low risk and performed under local or general anesthesia. Bone marrow replenishes itself, so you’ll never miss what you gave away, and most donors report no side effects apart from a few days of lower back soreness.

The drive is happening all over the country, so check for a donation center near you. In Coeur d’Alene, volunteers can enroll at the Inland Northwest Blood Center’s North Idaho Collection Center, at 1341 Northwood Center Court (right next to Outback Steakhouse.) The phone number is (208) 667-5461. I walked in on Monday morning and was out of there in fifteen minutes. They even had snacks and coloring books to keep Caleb busy while I filled out the forms. After answering a few questions about my medical history, I swabbed the inside of my cheek for a tissue sample (feeling very much like a CSI agent) and I was done.

I really hope they call me.

What can I say to convince you to do this? Yes, it may be inconvenient, and it’s not quite as simple as donating blood, but it’s your chance to be a superhero to someone who desperately needs one. Imagine, you could be the one who gives a mother back her little boy, the one who helps someone’s daughter live to see her high school graduation! You could be the one who saves a life. Isn’t that worth fifteen minutes on a Monday morning?

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9 responses »

  1. We are hosting a bone marrow donor drive at church this week in honor of a baby who is dying of leukemia and has a rare type of tissue for which there is currently no match on the registry. If anyone needs a living, breathing reason to join the national registry, they can check out this child’s website http://www.ethanpowell.com . If this was your child, or sibling, or spouse, or if it was you, I think you would be thankful for every stranger who took a few minutes to see if they could help! Great post – big on my mind this week!

  2. Katrina,
    THANK YOU for doing this post and for registering. I know many of us have had Ethan on our minds and in our prayers. Thanks for keeping him in yours and for helping out. As Ben (Ethan’s daddy) always says…PRAYER WORKS!

  3. Katrina,

    Thanks for spurring me to action! I’ve considered signing up, but have always been a little scared; I’ve heard about how painful it can be! But, putting it into the perspective you did (a child or loved one), it made me reconsider. If I can give birth 3 times, I certainly can handle a little discomfort to help save someone’s life! Besides, I can’t imagine that it would be any worse than an epidural, right? 🙂

  4. My husband and I have been on the registry for about 10 years now. He did get called once, and was very excited, but it didn’t work out. Fortunately, because of your post, I updated our current address so they can now contact us if needed. We signed up while living in the Boise area as part of a drive. I encourage everyone to do it as well.

  5. I found a drive in our area next Sunday and plan to sign up. I probably never would have done this had you not written this post. Thank you!

  6. This is such a simple thing to do and yet I have never done it. I am going to follow your links and find a place to get registered!

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Katrina. You are right, we can all do something to help!

  7. There wasn’t a donor location near me, but you can also register and request a kit online (from your link). Just an FYI in case anyone else runs into location challenges!!

  8. Thank you all so much for responding! It’s exciting to think of being an answer to someone else’s prayers and making a difference in the world in such a simple way. 🙂 I appreciate you rising to the occasion! I’m sure others do, too.

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