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“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” That comes from Johnathan, who offers that quote to explain why he signed up for the Be The Match Registry®. He joined the registry with the goal of taking one small step to saving someone’s life.
For people diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, a bone marrow or cord blood transplant can provide a cure. Yet, few patients who need a transplant have a relative who’s a good match. In fact, 70% of patients need a match outside their family – and often outside their state or country. Their hope lies in volunteers who sign up for Be The Match, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping every patient get a life-saving transplant.
The momentum for the match program began when Dr. Robert Graves and his wife Sherry agreed to the first-ever bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor to try to save the life of their 10-year-old daughter. The transplant worked. And it inspired the Graves family to give other families the same hope for a cure.
A national registry was launched seeking volunteers willing to donate bone marrow. Within just a year, 10,000 people signed up. From a tiny office in St. Paul, Minnesota, the program grew from conducting its first transplant in 1987 to where it is today: A powerful force that has facilitated over 80,000 marrow and cord blood transplants around the globe.
You could make the difference to someone who’s fighting for their life. It’s simple to get started. Begin by joining the registry online, where you’ll answer a series of questions and provide a brief medical history. From there, you’ll be sent a kit that lets you swab the inside of your cheek to collect cell samples. Once you return the sample, it will be analyzed for specific protein markers, known as HLA markers, that determine compatibility with patients who need a bone marrow transplant.
There are over 13.5 million volunteers in the bone marrow registry. More are needed because the odds of finding a close HLA match are low. You may never be identified as someone’s match, but you will increase their possibilities of finding a match – and that’s a lot. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the one person who can save someone’s life. And that’s everything.
In last week’s post, we honored the legacy of Jake Dibel. His life was extended through blood and bone marrow donations, and he was passionate about giving others the same hope. His family has continued to advocate for bone marrow registry, even providing information about donating at Jake’s Celebration of Life service.
Johnathan, who actually became a donor, has this message for registry members: “I don’t think you realize how good of a thing you are doing just yet. Once you get the call and you get to donate, you are a hero to at least one person. It’s the best feeling – you’re a hero.”