Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 6, 2013

Alto bone marrow drive seeks to help eradicate forms of blood cancer

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

ALTO — When she saw a Facebook plea posted by the family of a Nacogdoches boy in need of a transplant, Kathi Davis looked into becoming a bone marrow donor.

When a schedule conflict prevented her from attending a drive the family had arranged, Davis went online and ordered a kit from www.deletebloodcancer.org – a New York-based outfits which gives people the opportunity to register by computer as a donor.

And when she saw how easy that was, Davis – who coordinates the monthly Alto Health For All health fair – decided to include their materials at the scheduled June fair.

“We did get a few people (interested in becoming donors) that first time, but it wasn't as many as I had hoped,” she said, then added, “the second time was more successful. I'd say we've had about 20 people (combined) who have come to the table and were interested in learning about it.”

As a nod to September's national Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness month, Davis is hoping that the third time will be the charm, and that more people will sign up either during the Sept. 17 fair at 166 Cooper Street, or register via the Delete Blood Cancer website.

 “I'm hoping that people are getting used to the idea” of becoming bone marrow donors, she said.

According to their website, officials at Delete Blood Cancer say that first and foremost, “We want to make sure that helping a patient get healthy won't impact your life,” and list eligibility guides: A donor must be between the ages of 18 and 55; be in general good health, weighing at least 110 pounds and be at least 4'10”.

Donors can fill out an online form, and will receive a kit that contains a swab and a coded envelope for sending their sample to the organization, where it will be matched against a list of people needing donors.

If there's a match, the company will pay transportation costs to a site in Dallas, where bloodwork is done, Davis said.

“It used to be that (the procedure) required invasive surgery, but that's not the case anymore,” she said.

The website described the two different processes for donation.

The first, called a Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Donation, involves a process known at apheresis, in which a five-day regimen of injections of a synthetic protein help to increase the number of stem cells in the blood.

 “On the day of collection the donor's blood is removed with a sterile needle from one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood stem cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm,” the site states; the process takes about four to eight hours over one to two consecutive days.

Bone Marrow Donation, the other means of extracting needed cells, entails the collection of liquid marrow “from the backside of the pelvic bone (not the spine) using a special syringe,” according to the website. Donors using this process receive general anesthesia for the one- to two-hour, outpatient procedure.

Within a week of donating, many donors are able to return to their usual lifestyle, the site added, because “only five percent or less of a donor’s marrow is needed” for a transplant, an amount which the body “will completely replenish within a few weeks.”

Those individuals who aren't viable as donor candidates are encouraged to spread the word about becoming a donor, Davis said.

“You still would be helping save a life,” she said.