About 15 years ago a columnist at the newspaper where I worked wrote about a woman in need of a bone marrow transplant.
I didn't know the woman, but I did know the columnist and I attended an event where people were signing up for the National Marrow Donor Registry.
They were particularly looking for people of African descent to sign up. We were, you guessed it, under-represented in the registry. And the matching of donors to clients/patients is more complex because of the multiple tissue types people of African descent have. (I imagine that's tied to all of the intermixing over hundreds of years in North America - but I'm not an expert, so I can't confirm that).
I signed up. It was easy and felt like the right thing to do. I didn't get the call to help the women my friend wrote about. I met the poet Glenis Redmond at the event and went on my merry way. I rarely thought about it except for every few years when I'd receive a request from the registry to update my contact information and provide the name and address of someone who would always be able to find me (which is always my mother).
This summer my mother got a call and a letter (and so did I).
The team from the registry was trying to contact me; I was a potential match for someone who needed a transplant.
As I said above, I didn't really think about the registry that much. Now I had to think about it and it was a clear decision. Of course I would do more tests. That was the whole point of signing up in the first place.
So I had blood drawn for testing. I learned shortly after that while I was a partial match, I wasn't as close as the doctors wanted for this client/patient.
I won't ever know if they found a match for the person. I hope that they did. I hope that more people are signing up every day so the chances of finding a match improve for all of us.
Today I was reminded again about the registry when I read this story. Shannon Tavarez died this week. She was 11. She had already had a role on Broadway in The Lion King as Nala.
And they did not find a bone marrow donor in time to save her. 11 years old. Beautiful, as we humans are. One more reason to #DoSomethingBig.
From the New York Times story:
Minorities are vastly underrepresented in the bone marrow donor registry, which makes suitable donors for minority patients difficult to locate.
So I am thinking about the program again. And how over the last 15 years I haven't been spreading the word.
Please read about the marrow donor registry and register as a donor. It is simple and one of the easiest ways to be a hero we have.
You may not ever get the call. But if you're the "one" you can't save a life if you haven't joined the registry.
@BetheMatch on Twitter; #DoSomethingBig