URGENT: Latino Bone Marrow Donors Needed


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By Linda Tishler Levinson

A recent story in CTLatinoNews.com about Joan Luna Zayas, of Meriden, who has just two months to find a donor for a a bone marrow transplant, brought a number of responses from our readers who asked for more information on becoming a donor.
Unfortunately, the lack of finding a match for Zayas and other Latinos is not unusual.
“Latino and Hispanic patients can have a harder time finding a donor than other patients. Patients are most likely to match people who share their heritage. Today, fewer than 940,000 (only 10%) in a registry of 11 million members are Hispanic or Latino heritage,” said Patricia Fernandes, a recruiter for The Icla da Silva Foundation  the largest recruitment center for the Be The Match Registry in the United States.
Joan Zayas, (center back row) at bone marrow drive in November.
Many like Zayas, have to appeal to the public. She was first diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in March and her condition has since  had worsened.  Her sister was tested and  a bone marrow donor drive was held in November, but still no match was found.  Zayas’ doctor has given her two months to find a donor, at which time a core transplant will be done. The complex procedure cannot be done in Connecticut, Zayas said, so she would need to travel to New York or Boston.
According to Be The Match®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), and manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, here are the steps to becoming a bone marrow donor.
Step 1: Join the registry
According to Be the Match,  when you join the registry, you will use a registration kit to give a swab of cheek cells. The organization will tissue type the sample provided and use the results to potentially match donors to patients. If you join the registry at a donor drive, you will be instructed in how to use the swab kit.  If you cannot attend a drive, you can join online at bethematch.org.
There are guidelines for joining the registry. Those registering should be between the ages of 18 and 44, since they are the most likely suitable donors. Donors from ages 45 to 60 may join, but also will be asked to pay a $100 fee to help cover costs.
Step 2: Only 1 in 540 registry members go on to donate
Once you join Be The Match Registry®, you will be included in patient searches every day. If you match a patient, you will be contacted to confirm that you are willing to donate. If you agree to move forward, you will be asked to update your health information and participate in additional testing to see if you are the best match for the patient. If you are the best match, you will:

  • Participate in an information session. You will be given detailed information about the donation procedure and recovery process, including risks and side effects. If you agree to donate, you will sign a consent form.
  • Have a physical exam and give blood samples to make sure that donation is safe for both you and the patient.

Step 3: Donate PBSC or Bone Marrow
There are two methods of donation: PBSC and bone marrow. The patient’s doctor will choose which one is best for the patient.

  • PBSC donation  is a non-surgical procedure. For 5 days leading up to donation, you will be given injections of filgrastim. Filgrastim is a medication that increases the number of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream. On the day of donation, blood is removed through a needle on one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through the other arm.
  • Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure that takes place in a hospital operating room. Doctors use needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone. Donors receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation.

Step 4: Recovery and Follow-Up

The time it takes for a donor to recover varies. It depends on the person and type of donation. Most donors are able to return to work, school and other activities within 1 to 7 days after donation. Be The Match® considers donor safety a top priority and will follow up with you regularly until you are able to resume normal activity.

 If you are interested in becoming a donor, there are two bone marrow donor drives being conducted in Connecticut this month so you can be tested and join the national donor registry.
The Icla da Silva Foundation will conduct a donor drive from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 16 at Porter & Chester Institute, 30 Waterchase Drive, Rocky Hill. For information, call 888-638-2870.
The foundation also has a drive scheduled for 8 to 9 p.m. Dec. 7 at Revival Church, 141 Deer Hill Ave., Danbury. For information, call 888-638-2870.
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