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Marrow Donor Program Kicks Off National Donor Recruitment Campaign

Armen Hareyan's picture

Donor Recruitment Campaign

More than 400 donor drives taking place online and across the country to help save lives.

Shortly after starting kindergarten in September 2006, 5-year-old Isaiah Garay of Phoenix, Ariz., developed persistent flu-like symptoms, constant fatigue, and began to bruise easily. Concerned for Isaiah's health, his parents, Adam and Connie, scheduled a doctor's visit for their once rambunctious son. Isaiah was soon diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and his parents were told he needed a life-saving marrow or blood cell transplant.

Determined to find a cure for Isaiah, Adam and Connie turned to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry, like thousands of patients do each day. "The NMDP Registry contains more than 6 million volunteer donors, but less than 600,000 are Hispanic, which has made it difficult for us to find a donor for Isaiah," said Adam.

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In an effort to help all patients in need, the NMDP kicks off its national Thanks Mom Marrow Donor Drive today with a goal of adding 20,000 new donors to the NMDP Registry in two weeks. Thanks Mom will run May 7-21 and sponsor free marrow donor drives online at marrow.org and in more than 350 cities nationwide.

"Thanks Mom raises awareness of the critical need for marrow donors," said Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D., chief executive officer of the NMDP. "Our goal is to find donors for all patients in need of a transplant by increasing the number of overall donors, especially those from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds." Although millions have joined the National Marrow Donor Program Registry, there are still not enough donors to meet the need of all patients.

On any given day, more than 6,000 men, women and children are searching the NMDP Registry for a life-saving donor. These patients have leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases that can be cured by a marrow or blood cell transplant.

For a successful transplant, a marrow donor's tissue type needs to match the patient's as closely as possible. Racial and ethnic heritage play a vital role in tissue matches. Because tissue types are inherited, a patient is more likely to match someone from their own race or ethnicity.

Joining the Registry is quick, easy and painless -- a cotton swab, called a buccal swab, is used to collect cells from the inside of the cheek to determine the donor's tissue type. The marrow donation process is relatively easy and most donors report that they would be willing to undergo the procedure again in order to save a life.

Now in its second year, Thanks Mom was established in honor of 10-year-old Kailee Wells, who recently received a marrow transplant after four years of searching. Kailee's parents, Owen and Linda, launched Thanks Mom within their community to help assist other families searching for committed marrow donors. The NMDP has taken the campaign to the national level, last year registering a record number of donors in three days. "What better way to honor your mother than by joining the NMDP Registry," said Owen. "Sharing the gift of life is a great way to say 'Thanks, Mom!'"