First off I want to say that I am into this because my brother is a leukemia survivor. None of us in the family matched but luckily we found a match with a lady in FLA. I am still on the list but have not yet ever been a match.
The problem is not enough people in the database. In fact more people vote for American idol in one week then are in the National Bone Marrow Registry.
What's worst is for our minority countrymen. Very few on the list which makes leukemia even more of a death sentence for latinos and blacks.
Once a year I try to help out and sign up 10 new people to the list. Over last 4-5 yrs I have talked about 30-40 friends into joining the list. You can do it with a simple swab of your mouth.
Here is a story about how tough it is to find a donor.
Seven million people are listed on the registry, but a very small percentage of them are from minorities.
Doctors say that's unfortunate, because ethnic background is key when trying to find a marrow match.
It's Denise Bertholin's wedding day, but instead of getting married in the mountains as she planned, she took her vows in a hospital chapel. Three weeks before her wedding, she was diagnosed with acute leukemia.
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"I just started crying and my fiancÚ came in and just hugged me."
Chemotherapy wasn't effective for Denise. Her doctor, Douglas Smith, said she needed a bone marrow transplant. "For patients who have leukemias that can't be cured with traditional chemotherapy, we look for allogeneic bone marrow transplants in order to try to give them the best treatment to keep their disease away forever," explained Smith.
Allogeneic stem cells are taken from a matched donor. Preferably a family member.
In Denise's case, her family didn't provide a perfect match.
Her next step was to join the national bone marrow registry, but she faced another problem.
She's Latina, and according to registry CEO, Dr. Jeffery Chell, only nine percent of people on the registry are Hispanic.
"The number one reason people don't join the registry is because they don't know about it," Chell said.
For now, Denise waits, hoping that more people of Hispanic origin will register so she can renew her vows in a wedding she's always dreamed of.
Getting your name on the registry is easy.
Joining the registry involves taking a simple swab of the inside of your cheek to determine your tissue type.
National Bone Marrow Registry
Just think how good it would feel to save some little kids life, or anyones life for that matter. You could be a life saver and all you did was get some marrow sucked out, it doesn't even hurt like I used to. Not to many people get the chance to do something like that for another human being, I really hope someday I am a match for someone and I can payback the system that saved my brothers life.