BR Mayor, Be the Match and Cancer Center partner for 90‐day challenge to increase bone marrow donors.
(Baton Rouge, La.) Phil Page, a 46‐year‐old father and husband from Baton Rouge, is seeking a matching bone marrow donor, and he wants people to know that there are many others like him. According to Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry, more than 10,000 people a year need a bone marrow transplant. But for Page, who in January was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a life‐threatening condition that occurs when a person’s body stops producing enough blood cells, he hopes that a match will soon step forward.
“I first thought that bone marrow donation was unpleasant and painful, but I quickly learned that it really isn’t,” said Page. “Many advances have been made and, most importantly, it saves a life. Having more time with my family means the world to me, and I know it’s foremost on the minds of every other patient needing a transplant.”
Because there are many people like Page living in the Baton Rouge area, three local entities are partnering for the “90‐Day Donor Challenge” to help increase the number of registered bone marrow donors. Mayor‐President Kip Holden, Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center and Be the Match have launched a 90‐day bone marrow donation drive, August 12 – November 1. Registration drives will be held throughout the city in an effort to sign‐up as many potential donors as possible. Registering is easy and only requires filling out a medical questionnaire and a quick cheek swab.
And while finding a match for Page, who is Caucasian, has proven difficult it is even more challenging for minority patients. African‐American patients have among the lowest odds of finding a matching donor compared with other populations. They also have the most diverse tissue types, which makes the matching process even more challenging. Only 28 percent of registered donors belong to minority groups with only 7 percent being African‐ Americans.
Dr. Vince Cataldo, a medical oncologist and hematologist at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, is Page’s doctor and said that, unfortunately, some patients run out of time before a donor is identified.
“As our therapies for bone marrow associated cancers have improved, more patients have become potential candidates for bone marrow or stem cell transplants,” said Dr. Cataldo. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to treat the disease, we are sometimes left with offering less than optimal care to a patient due to lack of a suitable donor.”
Baton Rouge Mayor‐President Kip Holden said that he was inspired to become involved in promoting bone marrow registration after learning about the difficulty many patients have in identifying a match.
“For the donor, the preparation and time investment is minimal considering what it means for the recipient,” said Holden. “For someone needing a transplant, finding the right match means staying alive and keeping their family intact. For me, I think about how I would feel it was me or a family member who needed a transplant and what finding a match would mean. It’s just the greatest gift you can give.”
Bone marrow drive events are scheduled throughout the “90‐Day Donor Challenge” and additional sites may be added. For an up‐to‐date listing on bone marrow registration drives, call (225) 215‐1234 or visit www.mbpolol.org/donorchallenge. Any organization, group or club interested in scheduling a registration drive should call (225) 910‐4872.