"The cure for blood cancers like leukemia is in the hands of ordinary people."
These words can be found on the "Be The Match" website at www.bethematch.org. Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world for over two decades.
Tomala Knisely, a phlebotomist at Sistersville General Hospital and nighttime phlebotomy instructor at Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute, along with one of her MOVTI students, Donna Cecil, is supporting the "Be The Match" program with a marrow drive. It will be held at the Lewis-Wetzel Family Center in New Martinsville on April 26, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"All that people have to do is come in and have their cheek swabbed," Knisely states. "This will put you on the National Bone Marrow registry."
However, if a person wishes to do more, they can contact Knisely to offer their services for other entertainment that is anticipated to be offered that day, whether it be music, face-painting, or something else. In fact, Knisely encourages those who cannot donate to volunteer their time on April 26. Knisely hopes that fellow SGH employees, along with her MOVTI students, will volunteer that day. "It is a family affair and kid-friendly," Knisely states.
In the meantime, Knisely is also hoping to calm some of the common fears that are connected with marrow donation, and what happens if a person might receive a call, in the future, that they are a match. Many of these topics, and more, can be found on the Be The Match website.
Marrow is collected one of two ways: through peripheral blood stem cell donation, a nonsurgical procedure, or bone marrow donation, a surgical, usually outpatient procedure.
With PBSC donation, for five days leading up to the donation, the donor will be given injections of filgrastim, to increase the number of cells in the bloodstream that are used in the transplant. Some of the donor's blood is then removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm.
Bone marrow donation is a surgical, outpatient procedure. The donor receives anesthesia and will feel no pain through the donation. Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of the donor's pelvic bone.
With both procedures, the donor's cells usually replenish themselves in four to six weeks. Furthermore, because only one to five percent or less of marrow is needed to save a patient's life, the donor's immune system stays strong. The steps involved in a donation process take about 30 to 40 hours total, including travel time, and they spread out over the course of four to six weeks.
Furthermore, donors never pay to donate marrow. Travel costs are reimbursed, and medical costs for the donation procedure are covered by Be The Match or the patient's medical insurance.
Donors who gave through a PBSC donation are anticipated to recover within seven to 10 days of donation. Those who gave through a bone marrow donation, are usually back to their normal routine in a few days and feel fully recovered within 21 days. According to Knisely, pain or discomfort is usually likened to that of a flu, with body aches and pains.
She remarked that these aches and pains, however, are a small price considering the pain the leukemia patient goes through with their battle.
According to Be The Match, the cost to add a new member to their registry is about $100. Knisely says that as of right now, she hopes that the amount of money raised prior to the drive will cover these costs. However, updates on this specific endeavor will be released through the paper prior to the drive.
The first person to ever receive a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor was Laura Graves, a 10-year-old leukemia patient. This successful bone marrow transplant happened in 1979, according to Be The Match. Today, more than 55,000 marrow and cord blood transplants have occurred over the past few decades. An average of 490 transplants occur per month.
Only about one out of every 500 members in the registry will go on to donate.
For more information, Knisely encourages interested participants or volunteers to call her at 304-771-3413, or call Cecil at 304-455-1523. Knisely has also set an account up at Bayer Heritage Federal Credit Union. Monetary donations are to be made to the "Be The Match Foundation" account.