When Phoenix resident Steve Eickert required a bone marrow transplant to treat his blood disease in 2001, a computer database gave him the results he was hoping for: a young man in another city was a match and was willing to donate his marrow.
Now organizers of a bone marrow drive at the City of Hope•Samaritan Bone Marrow Transplantation Program hope their work brings similar good news for dozens of other men, women and children around the nation waiting for a matching donor.
In all, 86 people registered as new bone marrow donors at a marrow drive organized by both the City of Hope•Samaritan Bone Marrow Transplantation Program and National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) in Phoenix on Feb. 15.
The NMDP works through an extensive network of national and international organizations to facilitate marrow and blood cell transplants for patients who need an unrelated donor transplant. Registering for the NMDP sometimes requires a processing fee, but the Eickert Bone Marrow Fund at the Banner Health Foundation funded the recent drive, making donation free to all participants.
The Eickert Bone Marrow Fund originated through a gift from Eickert, whose experience after receiving a bone marrow transplant for acute myelogenous leukemia at the City of Hope•Samaritan Bone Marrow Transplantation Program led him to designate more than $1 million to City of Hope.
Sadly, Eickert passed away in December 2006, but his legacy continues in programs such as the marrow drive.
Anyone interested in joining the NMDP must undergo preliminary testing, which requires only a swab of the inside of the cheek; no blood draw is required. Any adult between ages 18 and 60 and in generally good health can become a registered donor. If tissue typing shows that a potential donor may be a match for a patient awaiting a transplant, now or in the future, additional testing is done to review potential donors’ health and compatibility.
Healthy marrow donors usually can regenerate the cells they donate within four to six weeks.
Marrow drive organizers urge those who meet screening requirements, regardless of heritage, to consider participating in marrow donation. However, those from minority groups are especially encouraged to become involved. Due to low participation on the national registry, minority patients seeking treatment for cancer or blood diseases have less opportunity to find a good match. Frequently the best match comes from a donor of similar ethnic descent.
The City of Hope•Samaritan Bone Marrow Transplantation Program will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in April. Through this program, more than 600 patients with cancer or blood diseases have received a bone marrow, umbilical cord blood or blood cell transplant.
Editor’s note: City of Hope staff and visitors also may register for the NMDP at the Duarte, Calif., campus through the Blood Donor Apheresis Center. For information, please visit www.cityofhope.org/BloodDonorCenter.