After Kory and I got married in 1999, we joined a young couples mid-week Bible study at the church we were serving. The group was comprised of about 10 engaged and newly married couples without children. This was our first “community” as a married couple. And it was a special one.
It was a tight-knit group. We met weekly to study the Scriptures and to pray with and for one another. We had regularly scheduled socials and retreats. And we engaged in missions outings together.
In the Fall of 2001, though, tragedy struck our community. One of the wives was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 34, and she battled the cancer for almost a year before it took her life. During that time, our community grew even closer to one another as we joined hands to rally around this couple and their family.
We did a lot of things to show our support. We cooked meals. We helped around the house. We visited when visitors were allowed. And we prayed for a miracle.
We also organized a bone marrow drive at our church in honor of our friend, with the hope that a match might be found to cure her blood cancer. We worked in partnership with Be The Match, the bone marrow registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. And though we didn’t find a match for our sweet friend, the drive was a huge success, adding hundreds of donors to the registry all in one Sunday afternoon.
I didn’t know much about the Be The Match registry or bone marrow donation prior to the drive we held, but I came to understand the importance of it through that process.
According to the Be The Match website, “[e]very four minutes, one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies from a blood cancer. That’s more than six people each hour, or 148 people each day.”
That’s a lot of people.
To make matters worse, seventy percent of all patients who need a transplant don’t have a matched donor in their family. Yet according to the NMDP, there is an estimated 76-97% chance that a patient will find a matching donor on the Be The Match registry, depending on race and ethnicity.
Those are good odds. But the odds only stay good as long as people continue to join the registry.
Once on the registry, the statistics for donation are as follows:
“1 in 40 registry members will be called for additional testing. Additional testing can be used to narrow the list of potential donors and determine the best possible match for a patient.
1 in 300 will be selected as the best possible donor for a patient. These potential donors will have an information session with their donor center representative to learn more about the donation process. Due to changes in the patient’s condition, not all donors who are selected as the best match will donate.
1 in 500 members will actually donate.”
It’s been almost twelve years to the day since I joined the Be The Match registry. And I haven’t really thought about it much except when we’ve moved, and I’ve needed to update my address. But yesterday, when I went to the mail box, a letter from Be The Match was waiting for me.
I’ve been identified as a “possible match” for a patient considering a transplant. I’m the “1 in 40” referenced above. After all these years.
I spoke with a representative of Be The Match yesterday evening. She explained the two procedures that are used to collect bone marrow, confirmed my willingness to donate, and walked me through a preliminary wellness screening to determine my eligibility.
She told me that I would receive word within two months if I am, indeed, a match and further screening needs to be done. She also said that if I don’t hear from her within that timeframe, it means that they do not need my bone marrow at this time, and I will simply remain on the registry.
If anything comes of this, I will post updates along the way. But in the meantime, I felt compelled to take a minute and highlight the importance of bone marrow donation.
Would you please consider joining me as a member of the Be The Match registry?
Don’t underestimate the significance of your decision. The cure to blood cancer lies in the hands of ordinary people like you and me. You could be the only person who could save someone’s life through the gift of bone marrow donation.
So what do you say?
For more information about the Be The Match registry, the National Marrow Donor Program, and bone marrow donation, visit www.bethematch.org.